Nearly every public establishment has one. But if unless you need it, you probably will never see it or even know where it is at. Have you ever had to ask someone, Do you have a “lost and found”? The things that are there have two common characteristics: 1) They were all lost by someone, and 2) someone else found them and put them in this place. So in a sense they are found, but not really. This is not a happy place because unless someone shows up to claim the things here, they are destined to remain lost.
The Bible is a story about people who were once lost being found.
I. What does it mean to be lost? It is almost certain that many folks (even Bible reading folks) do not recognize the seriousness of this word. Would your friends understand what this word means?
A. The word in the Greek verb form is apollumi, and means to destroy or utterly kill. (Matt. 10:28, God is able o kill both the body and the soul). It signifies to perish, as a “lost sheep” would certainly not survive. To describe a person as lost in the spiritual sense, unmistakably indicates more than being unfulfilled or misguided. The lost person is destined for hell.
1. Luke 9:25 – 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? It is a serious thing to be lost. To be lost is to lose everything.
2. Jesus used the word “lost” about 15 times in the NT (and He was the only one to use the term). 5 of those occurrences are found in His parables of Luke 15.
II. The “Lost” Chapter of the New Testament – Luke 15. The three parables of Jesus contained here provide a picture of both being lost and being found. I am convinced that these stories are designed to teach us more about God than ourselves.
- Although these 3 stories are distinct, they teach a composite lesson about salvation. In these 3 different pictures Jesus shows us the intention and emotion of God. He also displays how those who claimed to be God’s people were not like God at all.
A. The Complaint: Luke 15:1-2 – Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” It is important to see the context of these parables. Jesus has been accused of spending too much time with those who were considered outsiders (tax collectors and sinners). The Pharisees considered Jesus willingness to be sinful itself. Unconsciously they were singing the Savior’s praise, for this was His mission. We sing it too, Sinners Jesus will receive; Sound this word of grace to all; Who the heavenly pathway leave, All who linger, all who fall. Sing it o’er and o’er again: Christ receiveth sinful men; Make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men!
1. The Pharisees believed in guilt by association. If Jesus sought to spend time with sinners, He must have communion with their sinfulness. God had taught holiness through separation throughout the OT. Paul called on Christians to “come out from among them and be separate”
2. But Jesus had no design to be like the sinners, or commend them in their sin, but rather to save them. This charge was bogus, because it discounted Jesus’ motives, and by implication, the motives of God. When this same charge came at the house of Zaccheus Jesus said, …Luke 19:10 – “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
3. The Pharisees completely missed the character of their God. They could not perceive of Jehovah “seeking” sinners for the purpose of doing them good. Jonah was willing to preach doom to the Ninevites, but not repentance.
B. A Lost Sheep: ( Luke 15:3-7 – So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,’Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
1. The story of the lost sheep is simply told. Jesus tells the whole story in the form of a rhetorical question. What will the shepherd do if 1 of his 100 sheep becomes lost?
a. He leaves the 99 in the wilderness. It is not that the shepherd does not care about the other 99. But his job and character cause him to take a risk and search for the one who is lost. As with so many instances in the teachings of Jesus, the right response is a matter of priority. Do this first… Put this first.
- The security of the 99 is validated by the shepherd’s willingness to leave them and seek the one who is lost. They can be assured he would seek each one of them as well.
b. He searches until he finds it. He does not give up easily. He is optimistic that the sheep is still recoverable. He is sympathetic to its plight.
c. He lays it on his shoulders. Again we see the intimate concern for this single sheep. He recognizes the sheep’s weakness and he will not even allow it to walk back. Sheep are not like dogs, they will not follow you back home. They must be lead, or carried.
d. He rejoices and his friends rejoice with him. There is a story to tell his friends. There is a real emphasis on rejoicing in these parables. Joy is the attitude of heaven over the repentant sinner.
- Heaven rejoices more over the penitent sinner than the obedient Christian. What does this mean? It is a bold statement concerning the mission and focus of God toward men. God has a priority here that we cannot miss. Saving the lost is our first mission.
- The shepherd expects his friends to rejoice with him. What would it say about them if they did not?
C. A Lost Coin: Luke 15:8-10 – 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
1. Just as the last, the point of the parable is based on a common sense approach when something is lost. “Or what woman having ten coins if she loses one…” What do we expect?
a. Some Commentators tell us that Jesus’ example of the woman and her ten coins is a reference to the common practice of a new bride receiving a headband of coins to be worn in celebration of her wedding (as a wedding ring). If she lost one she would strive hard to find it.
- She lights a lamp (searches through the night)
- She sweeps the house (being very meticulous to search everywhere)
- She keeps looking until she finds it. It is worth the effort, so she does not give up.
b. Again there is the desire of sympathetic fellows who will share in her joy of finding what was lost. Jesus adds again that this joy over repentant sinners is found in heaven among the angels. His connection with the angels of heaven in these two parables is designed to exhibit a distinction between the attitude and reaction of God and those who are murmuring about Jesus’ choice to spend time with sinners. Unfortunately what is found in heaven is missing on earth. Men do not share in God’s purposes or emotions.
III. God – the Seeker of the Lost – These parables describe God in a much different way than many people view Him. It is common for us to talk about people seeking God, finding Jesus, and such. It is certainly true that God does want us to seek Him (Paul told the Athenians that God made man in order that they might seek after Him – Acts 17:27) But these parables depict God as the seeker. God is in the business of finding what is lost and restoring it to its proper place. The prophet Ezekiel reveals the shepherd heart of God in Ezekiel 34 – vs. 11-12 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. Vs. 15-16 – 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. 16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
A. What does it mean to be found?
1. Restored to the proper place: For a lost coin being found meant being back with its owner and regaining its intended value. What was wrong was made right, and everyone could rejoice.
a. The restoration of the sinner to his proper place is a biblical picture of salvation. When the sinner is forgiven he is reconciled to God. 2 Cor 5:18-20 – Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. Col 1:21-22 – And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight Eph 2:13 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
2. Brought back to life: For a lost sheep, being found means that he is saved from certain death. It is a matter of life and death. Again this presents a key description of salvation from sin. The wages of sin are death, and those who are lost are spiritually dead.
a. But when one is saved, he is brought back to life. John 5:24 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
b. Notice how the apostle uses both of these concepts of “being found” (saved) in Eph 2:4-7 – But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Conclusion: Are you lost? God is seeking you. He wants to reconcile you to Him and give you life. That is the message of the gospel. Tonight we will look at the last of the parables of Luke 15. A lost child is the most tragic of all. It becomes the story of the greatest joy. It is the story of you and me.
Another characteristic of these 2 lost items is that if they are not found, they are lost forever. They cannot make their way back. Remaining lost has eternal consequences.