Summary: God’s love for the wayward and lost and his desire for all of his children to return to him and live as children of God.
Have you ever lost anything valuable to you before? Perhaps you have lost your keys, wallet or purse, or something even more valuable? [Prompt the congregation for items they have lost]. If you have lost something of value you know the feeling of panic. You know how desperately you search for it.
In all three parables in Luke chapter 15, Jesus talks about losing something. In the first parable a shepherd had one hundred sheep and one wandered off sheep. One lost sheep. The shepherd left the ninety-nine to pursue the one lost sheep, searching until he found it. In the next parable a woman lost one of her ten coins worth a day’s wage, and she searched her house until she found the coin. The last parable which we are focusing on today is the about the lost son, or sons as I am calling it.
The worst thing to lose is ones own child. I have told you stories before of my tendency as a child to wander off when my parents would take me to a store. One time when I was a youngster my parents took me to J.C. Penny around Christmas time and I decided to go out on my own. I became their lost son. Of course I wasn’t lost, but because I wasn’t near my parents they thought I was lost. You can imagine they were terrified because not only was I lost in a large department store, but when I came up missing they were near the entrance to the mall and they were afraid I could have wandered off into the mall. They frantically searched for me until they found me. Why did they search so diligently for me? Because my parents love me.
It is certainly scary when a child is suddenly missing, but what if a child or youth leaves by choice? It’s not a sudden missing person, but they intentionally choose to leave, perhaps out of anger. Maybe some of you have had teenagers who have rebelled and literally walked away, or perhaps you were that teenager who ran away from home. Whether it is by accident or intentional when someone or something valuable is gone I think the loss is just as great.
Jesus told these parables because all of us can identify with losing something important to us at one time or another, and we all know the feeling of anxiety and desperation when something or someone we care about is missing. These parables show us in a tangible way how much God cares deeply about every single person, whether they are already in the household of God, or if they have wandered away and chosen their own path. God cares about his lost children just like a parent who has lost their child. Unfortunately the religious leaders in Jesus’ day apparently didn’t appreciate God’s passion for the lost because they were too busy following his commandments and their own religious traditions to pay attention to what God found important, people. These religious folks got so caught up in the rules and regulations that they failed to appreciate what God was doing around them. In fact they ridiculed Jesus for hanging out with “sinners and tax collectors and sick people” because they were sinful, unclean. Jesus really irked them because he regularly hung out with these people. What they failed to realize was how much God loved these people Jesus hung out, and that he sent his Son Jesus to bring these wayward children home.