The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Zoe Peters. 'The Peters Jesus loves the most'.

Luke 15:1-32

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

13 "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 "When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' 20 So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31 "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

Reflection

In this chapter Luke offers three very similar parables emphasising the same message. In each parable something is lost, there is a search to find it and there is rejoicing when it is found. It is clear in each analogy, from sheep to coin to person, humans represent the lost group.

The parables point to our human tendency to easily become lost. The lost son makes a series of monumentally bad decisions, driven by self-interest, and ends up in a desperate situation; I think we've all been there. Other times, like the sheep, we can just wander further and further away from God, not realising how far away we have gotten.

The parables reveal that when we are lost God searches for us and hunts us down. It is really a display of the incomprehensible amount God sees and loves us. The Shepherd leaves the other ninety-nine sheep to find the one. That is how much your father God loves you. In this time of crisis (I'm writing this mid-pandemic), where many of us feel entirely lost we need to remind ourselves that God sees us exactly where we are. Our problems are not inconsequential to Him, no matter how small.

The parables point to the truth that we are designed by our Father to be in relationship with him. It says that when the lost son 'came to his senses' he realised he needed to return home. There is often a light-bulb moment when we understand we cannot do this alone and we need to come home. We are designed to live in closeness to God.

The wonder of our return is that we are never treated with condemnation or judgement. When the lost sheep is found he says 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep'. When the coin is found 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin'. When the son returns the father breaks all customs by running to his son, placing ‘the best robe' on him and throws a party for him. When we return to our Father he runs towards us and welcomes us in.

Whether you feel far from God today or very close, we need to constantly turn back to God and be welcomed in. He loves you and is with you.

If you are feeling distant from God today here is a prayer you could pray:

God, I know that I mess things up. I run away and I hide. I am sorry for living without you. I need you God. Thank you that you welcome me in with open arms. Thank you that you love me as I am, not when I am perfect but because you know I am imperfect. Show me again what life is like with you at the centre.

Amen.

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