The entirety of chapter 15 has a single theme: God seeks out and saves sinners. We are told that the reason it comes up is that the scribes and Pharisees are harrumphing about Jesus teaching and accepting the company of tax collectors and sinners. Remember that back in Luke 14:35, Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Now Jesus has a bunch of people willing to hear Him that the Pharisees didn’t want to teach. Before Jesus arrived, they were stuck in a vicious cycle where they knew they were ungodly but didn’t know what to do about it, and the religious leaders wouldn’t teach them anything because they were too ungodly.
So Jesus tells three parables to explain how God operates. I’ll only talk about the first two today, though. In the first, He asks the Pharisees whether they would go out and search for their one lost sheep out of a hundred. And once they have found it and brought it home if they would celebrate with their friends that they didn’t lose the sheep. In the second, He talks of a hypothetical woman who has lost one coin out of ten. She searches through the whole house with a lamp until she finds it, and then tells her friends to rejoice with her because she found it.
In both stories, the people had lost something valuable. Sheep were (and still are) worth a good deal of money for the wool, milk, and meat you can get from them. The drachma coin the woman lost was the Greek version of the Roman denarius, worth about a day’s wage for a laborer. In both stories, Jesus identifies the lost thing as a sinner who has gone far from God, but is then found by God and repents. And when they do, there is much joy in heaven because they did.
Pay attention to sequence of events in these parables! God is the one who goes out and finds the lost sinners, and He is the one who brings them back. The Pharisees were wrong to expect people to clean up their lives before deciding to follow God’s commands better, and we are wrong to expect people to know and apply the truth before they have heard it.
Give us the grace and humility to remember that we, too, are sinners who are saved by grace, and if it weren’t for You, we would be as evil as anyone else.