Lost and Found–the Prodigal Son, part 1
In today’s passage from Luke, we have three parables about losing things and then rejoicing when they are found. These are the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. All three parables have the same basic story line—something of value is lost, then it is found, and then there is rejoicing.
Jesus told these parables in response to a statement from the scribes and Pharisees: (vs. 2) “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Sinful people were drawn to Jesus (vs. 1). He spent time with notorious sinners—tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, and other untouchable and unclean people. The scribes and Pharisees were very scrupulous to avoid contact with such sinners. They saw sinners as defiling; they wanted to stay away from such rabble. So they grumbled and complained when they saw Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, consorting with sinners and outcasts.
Jesus in no way excused sin, but he had great compassion for sinners. He had come “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). When sinners repent and the lost are found, there is great rejoicing in heaven (vs. 7). All three parables teach that same truth. Jesus loves and seeks lost sinners and rejoices when they repent.
The first two parables emphasize how God seeks the sinner, and the third parable emphasizes how the sinner needs to repent when he returns to God. But in every case, the right response when a sinner repents is rejoicing.
Today we’ll focus on the third parable, usually known as the Prodigal Son. This parable has two parts; today, we’ll consider part one, and next time we’ll look at part 2.
The first part of the Parable of the Prodigal Son shows us the devastating effects of sin and the nature of true repentance. It also shows us the incredible, abundant mercy of God.
One question we should consider before we start: is this a picture of a lost person getting saved or of a backsliding Christian repenting and getting right with God? Are we looking at the salvation of a lost soul or the restoration of a wayward saint? The context of the three parables implies that the main application is for backsliding believers—in each case, something owned is lost. This is a recovery of a relationship, not the establishment of a relationship.
However, I think elements of the story could be applied to either situation. Note vss. 7 and 10—the angels rejoice over “one sinner that repenteth.” That could apply when a lost person repents and gets saved, and it could apply when a believer repents and gets right with God. So this parable applies to you whether you are saved or lost.
Main idea: God extends abundant mercy to repentant sinners, and we should rejoice whenever a sinner repents and returns to God.