Forthright Magazine

Seeking the lost

Jesus associated with sinners, who would be “all who failed to observe the tradition of the elders, and especially their traditional rules of purification. It was not so much the wickedness of this class as their legal uncleanness that made it wrong to eat with them” (McGarvey).

He was also found in the company of tax collectors, or publicans. The tax collector was most often a man who lived in the district being taxed by the Romans. The Romans usually sold the right to tax within a given district to certain men who would take advantage of the opportunity to profit by overcharging their own countrymen. Sometimes, they even brought false accusations against them. They were considered traitors who plundered their own people for personal gain. They were classed with the Gentiles, so to eat with them would be viewed as a violation of the law. Jesus’ entire purpose in coming to earth was to heal those who were spiritually ill (Luke 5:27-32), so he allowed them to come near to him and learn.

The Pharisees and scribes found such close relationships with people they considered to be unclean distasteful. Jesus answered their murmuring by telling three parables about the lost. Each teaches a clear lesson about the Father’s view of sinners (Luke 15:1-3).

Sheep were highly valued because they could be used for food, milk, wool and sacrifice (Exodus 12:1-8; Isaiah 7:21-22; Job 31:20; Leviticus 1:10-11). Sheep are primarily concerned with food and water. They wander aimlessly if they have those. A man who lost a sheep would leave the others in the place of pasturage and look for the lost. The found sheep was lovingly laid on his shoulders and taken it back to the fold rejoicing. The shepherd would call for his neighbors to come rejoice with him (Luke 15:4-7).

Some men wander aimlessly into sin. They are lost due to their own carelessness, but God wants to find the lost. He rejoices more over the return of the lost one than over the self proclaimed righteous who say they have no need for repentance (Luke 18:11-12).

One coin was the wage for a day’s labor. The woman, realizing her loss, lit a lamp and began to sweep to find it. Their houses usually had one door, without windows and a dirt floor covered with dried reeds. The woman’s diligent search demonstrates God’s love for the lost, even when they are in that condition because of another’s negligence. God’s concern for man’s spiritual bondage caused him to send his own Son. The woman rejoiced when the coin was found and invited her neighbors to join her, thus Jesus portrayed the heavenly joy over even one sinner who repents (Luke 15:8-10).

The prodigal determined to leave, taking his inheritance with him, even before his father died. He wasted the money in a far country. A famine struck when all his money was gone. He attached himself to a certain farmer who sent him out to feed the swine.

The prodigal came to his senses and determined to go home to beg his father for a job as a servant. He knew his father treated his servants well. The father ran to greet him and accepted the penitent back as a son, saying, "for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Anyone who has felt the terrible burden of his own sins has to rejoice upon hearing those words of the father and noting that he had a party to celebrate his son’s return (Luke 15:11-24)!

God loves you and me, even if we are lost. We should love the lost like our Father.


Gary C. Hampton
Latest posts by Gary C. Hampton (see all)