Summary: Based on Kenneth Bailey’s interpretation this sermon puts a different spin on the parable of the lost sheep - coin - Son
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Daniel Boone was a man, he was a big man. Eye of an eagle and tall as a mountain was he. Yes, Daniel Boone was a big man.
Daniel Boone explored the great wilderness of Tennessee and Kentucky. It was Boone who marked the Wilderness Road that brought settlers into the new land. He often wandered over vast areas of forest, living off the land and dodging arrows. Once he was asked if he had ever been lost. He replied, “No.” He said that he had never been lost, but he did admit that he was “a mite confused once for about three or four days though!”
Boone’s pride would not allow him to admit that he had ever been lost. Most men are that way. We don’t look at maps but follow our noses, our instincts and drive our wives crazy at the same time. Our women believe we are lost while we men will not admit such defeat. One more turn and it will all be clear, men say.
It matters very little if you are trying to find a restaurant in Grand Forks if you get a little lost. It matters a great deal more if our pride keeps us from admitting we are lost without Christ.
Luke 15’s three story parable is Jesus’ theology of lostness. It was his answer to the question posed by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, “Why is this man eating with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus was supposed to be a holy man and there he was rubbing shoulders with the lowest class of society.
In Jesus’ characteristic fashion he tells them three stories as his answer. And these three stories are so full of meaning we can hardly do justice to them in one sermon. The three stories are really one and the same, just different aspects of the same truth. They tell us about being lost, what it means to be lost, what it takes to be found and really, why Jesus came to eat with tax collectors and sinners.
1. When you’re lost, you’re lost
The fact of the matter is, when you’re lost, you’re lost. Lost is not knowing where you are or how to get out of a situation. There is just nowhere to turn. Consider the examples Jesus gives:
a) The Lost Sheep – A man with a hundred sheep loses one of them. The sheep has wandered off over a ridge or hill and has become so engrossed with eating that it is now lost. Picture the sheep cowering, frightened and vulnerable. There are predators all around and its life is in danger. With this stark realization the sheep is frozen with fear and unable to move, curled up under a bush.
b) The Lost Coin – In the next story a woman loses a coin. It is a precious coin to her as it is part of her dowry, money that she hopes to give to her groom on her wedding day. The coin is perhaps caught in a crack in the dirt floor, or it rolled under a cabinet. Unlike the sheep it can’t cry out and give the searcher a clue where it is. Both are lost.
c) The Lost Son – Finally, there is the lost son who thinks he can come back, but the truth is he can’t. Wait a minute, what do you mean he can’t? Of course he can and he does. No he doesn’t. Physically he makes his way back but in truth he is just as lost as ever.
When the son originally left home he asked his father for his share of the estate (v. 12). This is a very insulting and grievous request for a father in those days. In reality the son is wishing his father “dead” so that he can have his inheritance. Living in community as the people did then, everyone in town knows what the son has done. The son would have sold his share of the family property to someone in town worsening the public shame on the family name. He then takes the money and spends it all away.
Realizing his predicament without money and yearning for food only pigs would eat he thinks of home. He schemes that it would be better to be a servant in the house of his father than starving in a foreign country. This is how it reads: “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men’ (17-19).