Some have described Luke 15 as the greatest joy chapter in all the Bible. In it, Jesus tells three stories. One is about a Shepherd who found his lost sheep. The second is about a woman who found her lost coin. The third is about a father who welcomed his lost son back home. All three follow the same pattern: lost, sought, celebrated. All of them rejoiced and invited friends and neighbors to rejoice. Jesus said there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when a lost sinner comes home (v. 10).
Joy in Salvation
Why did Jesus tell these three stories? The chapter begins, “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He spoke this parable to them…” (v. 1-3). Jesus socialized with sinners. The spiritually elite wanted nothing to do with sinners and tax collectors, but Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Instead of appeasing the religious leaders, He reminded everyone of the mission. It was His defense of His ministry. He was explaining why He would spend time with and eat with sinners. They were lost sheep gone astray who needed a Shepherd. They were lost coins stamped with the image of God. They were disobedient sons who were wasting their inheritance and needed to come home.
What makes God rejoice? When the lost are found. This is the joy of heaven, the joy of God, the joy of angels, the joy of the redeemed, and it should be our joy. We are joyful because God receives sinners and has fellowship with us. We are joyful because our sins are forgiven. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We can rejoice in the Lord always. We may not be able to rejoice over every situation, but we can rejoice in every situation. What brings you joy? Are you more like the Pharisees or Jesus? Many things in this world can bring temporary joy. Lasting joy is found in what brings God lasting joy.
Joy in Determination
These stories show us what it means to be sought after. The sheep got lost naturally. The coin got lost accidentally. (No one wakes up saying, “Today I am going to ruin my life.”) The son got lost willfully. Thank God while I was in rebellion and lost, Jesus sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood! Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He would not be discouraged or distracted from this priority. We are sinners by nature. We are all prone to wander. Sometimes we sin carelessly and sometimes willfully. In the story of the son, the father let him discover how good he had it at home. It was the father’s love, not the son’s, that restored the relationship. Romans 2:4 says the goodness of God leads to repentance. God sees what we can be. We can come back. We can be found. We can return home. No one is beyond hope or the grace of God. Lost things cannot serve their purpose until they are found. Have you ever lost your keys, glasses, billfold, driver’s license, credit card? They are of no use until they are found! They also lack the ability to return on their own. They must be found. Religion is man’s attempt to come to God. Christianity is God seeking and coming to us.
Joy in Celebration
At the end of each of these stories there is much rejoicing (v. 5-7, 9-10, 22-25). Did you know God is holy and happy? He goes to parties and throws parties! His first miracle was performed at a wedding. He is preparing the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. In the story with the father and son, David Jeremiah points out that the father is mentioned no less than 12 times. The younger son in essence says to his father, “I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance now.” “Far country” represents separation far from God. The father gave his sons everything they asked for and showered them with gifts. God Himself lavishes His extravagant love on His children from start to finish. The father did not say, “I told you so. You need to take a bath. You need to clean yourself up.” He was looking for his son. It does not matter what you have done, God is looking for you! God will run to you and meet you with arms open wide. That is the love of the God who is filled with joy. When you return to Him, there will be great rejoicing!
The Good Shepherd risks it all and lays down His own life to save the one. Every individual person matters to God. All around us there are people who are lonely in the crowd. They are unhappy and bitter. They need a good dose of Christian joy this Christmas. How determined are we to see the lost found?