Lost sheep; lost coin; lost son

Jesus told these three short stories to answer the scribes and Pharisees, who had complained that he mixed with tax collectors and other low class people. The more respectable Jews considered such people unworthy of God’s blessings. They were angry that Jesus showed interest in them and that many of them responded to his message (Luke 15:1-2).

The stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin show that God does more than welcome sinners; he actually goes looking for them. And when they repent, he rejoices. The Pharisees, however, did not consider themselves sinners. Therefore, they could not repent and so they brought no pleasure to God (Luke 15:3-10).

In the story of the lost son there is again a contrast between those who considered they had done everything right and needed no repentance (the elder brother) and those who were obviously sinners but who knew it (the younger brother) (Luke 15:11-19). There is also a contrast between the pardoning love of God (the father who welcomes the rebel home) and the cold and merciless attitude of the Pharisees (the older brother who was angry because of the welcome the rebel received) (Luke 15:20-30).

Because the Pharisees knew God’s law, they had an advantage over the tax collectors, but because they were self-righteous they never saw themselves as ‘dead’ or ‘lost’. They therefore never came to God in repentance. As a result they were left out of the kingdom, but sinners entered it (Luke 15:31-32).

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