Luke 15:1-24 by Pastor Dan Walker
Every person is either lost or found according to Jesus. In this message, we look at three stories Jesus told about finding lost people. Everyone is lost until they repent of their sin and put their faith in God. Learn how you can have a relationship with God and work with Jesus to find other lost people.
Duration:33 mins 34 secs

Today, we’re continuing in our message series called Profound Stories. Jesus often taught by the use of stories, commonly called parables, that have profound spiritual meaning. This morning we’re going to be looking at three stories in our message entitled “Lost and Found.” In each of these three stories, the main focus of the story is something or someone that is either lost or found. 

As we’ve mentioned in messages about Jesus’ other stories, every person is in one of two spiritual categories. In these stories, the categories are lost and found. Other labels for the same two categories are unsaved or saved, unbeliever or believer, not a child of God or child of God. People are not half in one of these categories and half in the other. Just as an object is either lost or found. Every starts out by the time they know right from wrong by being lost spiritually.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Circle the word “all”. There are no exceptions. Our sin separates us from God and we are lost, lost from a relationship with God, lost from His presence.

Luke 19:10 (ESV)  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Jesus is the Son of Man and Jesus came to this earth to save the lost, to find the lost and bring them into God’s family.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

This verse explains why Jesus has not returned to the earth in His second coming. When Jesus returns, the time for people to believe in Jesus will be over. Whatever state a person is in, either lost or found, will be their permanent eternal state. So, this verse explains that Jesus is giving people more time to repent and believe in Jesus. If they don’t, they will perish for eternity in hell. God doesn’t want to send anyone there, but if they refuse to believe, that will be their fate. If you’re a believer here today, a found person, then your purpose in life is to follow Jesus in His mission to seek and save the lost.

Philippians 2:15 (ESV)  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

As a found person, a believer, you are to shine as light in a dark world, just as Jesus was the light of the world. If you’re not sure that you’re a found person believer today, then most likely you’re still lost. As we go through Jesus’ teaching, God will be speaking to your heart about how much He loves us you and desires for you to be found today.

The three stories that we’re going to study today are found in Luke 15, one right after the other. All taught by Jesus on one occasion, all about something being lost and found. Each story brings out another important principle for us to understand. Jesus’ stories are aimed at describing what His purpose was and by extension, what our purpose as believers should be as well. We are to …

Search for those who wander

Luke 15:1-2 (ESV)  Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The lost, here described as tax collectors and sinners, wanted to hear Jesus’ teaching. Tax collectors were especially despised by the Jews because they collected taxes for the Romans. Not only were they disliked because they collected taxes, but they charged much more than the required taxes and so made huge profits. Jesus loved and had compassion for those tax collectors and other sinners as well.

So, the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and scribes didn’t like it. They thought that a true Jew should separate himself from all contact with sinners. They understood sinners to be unclean and didn’t want to contaminate themselves with them and certainly not eat with them. Yet, that was what Jesus did, over and over again. And we see throughout Jesus’ ministry, He was not contaminated by sinners, He brought sinners into God’s family as they repented. Jesus’ association with sinners was His way of searching for those who were wandering away from God. He was …

Show God’s love to the lost

Luke 15:3-4 (ESV)  So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

In this first story that Jesus told, there is a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. In this story, the shepherd represents Jesus, who is the good shepherd. One of the hundred sheep has wandered away and become lost. The lost sheep represents the sinners that Jesus spoke to and ate with. The shepherd doesn’t reason saying “I’ve got 99 sheep, what does it matter if one is lost? It will take a lot of work to find that one lost sheep, maybe I should just let him go. He shouldn’t have wandered away anyhow. Serves him right.” 

No, that was not the shepherd’s attitude. The shepherd loved and cared about the one lost sheep. He left the 99 and went out in the wilderness searching for the one lost sheep. That’s what Jesus was doing with sinners. He was searching for them, seeking to bring them back into relationship with Himself and the Father. He …

Make the lost a priority

Luke 15:5-6 (ESV)  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  

The task of finding the one lost sheep was more important than staying with the 99. The 99 were safe and could stay there until the shepherd returned. The job of finding the lost sheep was urgent and a priority. The sheep could be injured, it did not know how to find food and drink and there could be threats from wolves or thieves. Searching for the lost was a priority of the shepherd and of Jesus. When they shepherd found the lost sheep, he was filled with joy. So much so, that on his return, he called together all of his friends to rejoice with him. Jesus adds in the next verse …

Luke 15:7 (ESV)  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Not only does Jesus rejoice when a sinner repents, but heaven rejoices as well. The angels in heaven rejoice whenever a lost person is found. 

If Jesus is doing what the shepherd in His story did, then we should be following Jesus’ example. Our priority in life should be seeking lost people and bringing them to Jesus. Rather than looking down on them for their sin and wandering, we should show love and compassion for them. Sometimes we’re tempted to get angry with sinners over their sin. We must hate the sin, but love the sinner.

This story gives us an important way to look at lost people. We should consider them as a lost sheep. A lost sheep is defenseless, a lost sheep is not able to find the right path, a lost sheep is not getting fed properly. And the same is true of lost people. Lost people are defenseless against Satan’s attacks. They can’t find their way back to God, they are not living the life God created them to live. And it’s our priority to search for those wander and rejoice when they are found. Next, Jesus teaches that we must …

Seek those God values

In the next story that Jesus told, He is going to emphasize that lost people have value. That they have a special place in God’s heart, a special role to fulfill. There Jesus was and we should …

Diligently search for the lost

Luke 15:8 (ESV)  “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?

A woman had ten silver coins. These were most likely a special collection of coins, perhaps from a dowry and may have had special sentimental value. Now, one of the ten is missing. This coin has intrinsic value and it also is needed to bring her collection of ten back to ten. So, the woman gets some light and begins to diligently search for the lost coin. She doesn’t stop searching until she has found it. Then she …         

Rejoice when the lost are found

Luke 15:9-10 (ESV)  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The ending to this short story is almost identical to the story of the lost sheep. The woman calls together all her friends and neighbors to rejoice over finding the lost coin. Jesus again makes it clear that He is talking about lost sinners, who are found when they repent. And there is joy, not only on earth, but with the angels in heaven. Jesus is seeking those whom God values and we must do the same.

Why did the woman search so diligently for the coin? Because it had great value to her. If the coin had not value, she wouldn’t have searched for it, it would have been no great loss if it had never been found. 

Let’s think about ourselves and how diligently we are seeking to find the lost in our lives. Jesus, in this story, gives us a reason why we may not be diligently seeking the lost. It’s because we do not value them the way Jesus did. The Jewish leaders did not value the sinners around them, they simply wanted to distance themselves from them. We are tempted often times to be like those leaders. Trying to keep ourselves safe and uncontaminated by lost sinners. Although, we must be careful in various ways to not follow the ways of sinners, we must learn to love and value them as God does. 

If your child was lost, you would make it priority to find them. In the same way, God desires for us to diligently search for the lost that are in our lives. In the next story, Jesus desires for us to learn how to …

Pray for those who rebel

Luke 15:11-13 (ESV)  And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

In the first two stories, the lost was a sheep and a coin. Now, the stakes are raised considerably, as the lost is a son. The son does not just wander off, the son rebels. He asks for his inheritance while his father is still living. Just as wrong back then as it would be today. The father could have denied the son’s improper request, but he gave him what he asked for. The son decides not just to live home, but to travel to a distant country. While there, out of accountability to his father, he began to spend his entire inheritance very quickly in wild, sinful living.

Although, the earthly father in the story could not have known what was going on with the son in the far country, he surely knew that his son had not left on good terms. Undoubtedly, the godly father prayed for his son to return home. In the meantime, we learn that …

Being lost brings misery

Luke 15:14-16 (ESV)  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.   

We learn that the son had now spent the entirety of his inheritance, he was completely broke. The living conditions in the country were not good, as there was a famine. So, the son took the only job he could find, which was feeding pigs. Feeding pigs would have been especially degrading for a Jewish man, as pigs were considered unclean. Even with this job, he still didn’t have enough to eat and couldn’t even get the pig owner to feed him pig food.

This lost son had undoubtedly lost the friends he had when he had money and now he had neither friends nor money. His choices and lost position had brought him to misery. Now, in the story, the father mainly represents God and the son, those who rebel against God and are lost from His family. And we going to see that the way back to the father is …

Repentance brings the lost into God’s family

Luke 15:17-19 (ESV)  “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

The son finally began to think rationally about his condition. While he had left his father in his rebellion, he know realized that even his father’s servants were in better condition than himself. He made a choice to repent, to turn away from his sinful lifestyle and go back and confess his sin to his father. He made a choice to put himself under his father’s authority and serve him. Not only did the son think about the right thing to do, he actually put his plan into progress. He journeyed back to his father and repented.

Luke 15:20, 24 (ESV)  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. … For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The father did not rebuke the son for his wild living and squandering his inheritance. The father had compassion on his long lost son and hugged him with fatherly love. The father and his family began to celebrate the finding of the lost son and welcome him into the family. 

In this story, we see God the Father and Jesus’ heart to the lost. They view lost people as lost sons and daughters. They long to see them become part of God’s family, as God’s children. We also should have Jesus’ heart for the lost around us. To see them as lost brothers and sisters, that God was to welcome into His family. Every lost person is living a life of sin. Some more obvious than others. Whether the sin is apparent outward sin or more subtle sins of the heart, that sin has broken people’s relationship with their heavenly Father.

The result is that within the heart of every lost person is an empty spot that makes them miserable. They may try to ignore it and fill the emptiness with other things, but it is always there. There are times where a lost person has separated themselves from us. We can’t go after them like a lost sheep or search for like a lost coin. We must simply pray and trust God to bring them to repentance. We must have a heart of love and compassion for them in their lostness. Knowing that deep inside, their sin is making them miserable. We must believe that God will work in their hearts, as we continue to pray, and lead them to repentance and faith in Jesus. Pray for those who rebel.

So, in closing, let me first speak to the found people here today, those who are believers. May God give us the courage and boldness to search for those who wander from God’s family. They can’t be one of God’s sheep wandering alone in the wilderness. We’ve got to bring them back into the flock. May God help us seek the lost as those whom God values highly. In fact, God values the lost so highly that he sent His only Son to die for them. May God give us the compassion to pray for those who rebel. Trusting God to bring them to repentance.

May God change our hearts to see the lost as Jesus sees them. For those who are not sure whether they are lost or found or maybe you know that you are lost. You don’t have a relationship with Jesus, you’ve never repented of your sin and put your faith in Him. God loves you like the father in the story loved his son. He wants you to come to him. He’s longing to embrace you and welcome you into God’s family.