From time to time we hear reports of children and even adults who get lost in our great Canadian forests. Many of them probably thought that they were doing well and would soon return home when, actually, they were going farther and farther away from their destination. While the sun was still up they might have even enjoyed their journey. But once darkness fell, they realized that they were lost!
There is a television drama series called Lost and its promotional commercial features the first verse of the hymn Amazing Grace : “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
The message this month is about three different ways to be lost, but each story has a happy ending. In the parable Jesus told in Luke 15, all the things that were lost were eventually found.
This is one parable (not three, as many assume) about being lost and found, and Jesus told it using three illustrations.
1. Lost like a sheep (vss. 3-7)
I can almost see the shepherd counting his sheep into the fold at the end of the day, using his staff. He reaches number 99 and says to himself: “I must have made a mistake.” So he counts them all over again.
“Ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine. One sheep must be either sick, hurt, wandering or just tired. In any case it is lost.” So he goes out in the darkness to search for the lost sheep.
He goes over hill and valley, he grows cold and wet and tired. Finally, he reaches a rocky hillside full of thorns and finds the lost sheep. He puts it on his shoulder and carries it into the fold.
This story tells us two things. First, the kind of animal a sheep is. A sheep is generally senseless. It doesn’t watch where it is going. That is its nature, so when it is lost, it is lost naturally.
Second, the kind of person the shepherd is. Just as the senseless sheep doesn’t watch where it goes, the loving shepherd doesn’t care where he goes to find his lost sheep.
You and I are like lost sheep. The Bible says: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
2. Lost like a silver coin (vss.8-10)
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” (v. 8)
This woman had only ten silver coins… maybe just enough to pay her rent. But her little pouch tore open and her coins scattered.
She started to gather them up: “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine… only nine? There should be ten!” So she lit a lamp and searched carefully until she found it.
The difference between the sheep and the silver coin is this: The sheep could bleat and cry out so that the
Shepherd could hear it and be helped in his search.
The sheep was lost naturally. But the coin was lost helplessly; it couldn’t do anything to get back to its owner.
3. Lost like a prodigal son (vss.11-24)
“Prodigal” means reckless, squandering and wasteful. This young man wanted to go his own way. He was lost, not naturally like the sheep, not helplessly like the silver coin, but wilfully.
I am sure most of you could tell the story of the prodigal son by heart. He wanted freedom to enjoy life and do things his way. But then, after he got his freedom, he “squandered his wealth in wild living.” (v. 13)
In other words he had what the world calls a good time with plenty of money! But then he ran out of money, he became poor (v.14) and he was treated very badly. His friends left him and the only company he had were the pigs that he was hired to feed.
He was hungry, lonely and depressed. He was helplessly lost.
But he came to his senses. He probably said to himself: “I have been a fool!” His father could have told him that when he left home, but that’s how it goes — we find out for ourselves how hard sin is. Proverbs 13:15 says, “The way of the unfaithful is hard.”
So the prodigal son decided to go back to his father and he started rehearsing what to say to him. But his father did not even give him a chance to speak.
In verse 20 we read, “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.”
The father not only received his son the way he was, but he also forgave him and even threw a party for him. Why? Because “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (v.24)
In this parable we have three key people: the shepherd, the woman, and the father. The shepherd represents the Lord Jesus. The father represents God’s attitude toward the sinner. The woman represents the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus came to seek and find us, and He suffered to save us when we were lost. God our Father waits and welcomes us when we come back to Him. The searching woman is a picture of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin.
The whole parable is a picture of ourselves: We are lost in all three ways. Like the sheep, we are lost naturally. It is in our nature to go our own way. Like the silver coin, we are lost helplessly. We can do nothing toward our salvation. Now, if that was all, then we could not be blamed for being lost.
But we are also like the prodigal son… lost wilfully. We must “come to our senses” and see how foolish and wrong it is to stay away from God. Then, we must come to Him, confess our sins, ask Him for His forgiveness, and enjoy His welcome!
You may be a believer, a member of a church, and yet feel that you are lost and not know which way to turn in the situation you find yourself in. Or you may feel lost in spiritual confusion, wanting to find peace and security and the assurance of eternal life in God’s presence.
Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mathew 11:28-29)
Will you come to Him now? Will you let Him give you life, real life?
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian