This chapter consists of three thematically related parables. Firstly: the parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 1-7). Secondly: the parable of the Lost Coin (vv. 8-10). Thirdly: the parable of the Lost Son, also known as the Prodigal Son (vv. 11-32). The themes that unite these parables are sin, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and restoration. I really shouldn’t say anymore, and just let the parables speak for themselves because they are easily written and easily understood.
The first parable, the Lost Sheep, is a companion piece to Jesus’s identification as the Good Shepherd; an identification that he offers in John’s Gospel (Jn 10). My favorite part of this parable is a subtle difference that occurs from this same parable in Matthew’s Gospel. Look at v. 5. In Matthew’s Gospel, the verse reads, “and if he finds it…” There’s a sort of condition that Matthew puts on Jesus finding the Lost Sheep. That is not the case here. In Luke’s version, again in verse 5, it reads, “and when he finds it…” In Luke’s version, there are no conditions to Jesus finding those who have wandered off- it’s just a matter of time. I love that!
Then we have a brief parable about the Lost Coin. This parable is similar in theme to the Lost Sheep. I will leave this to your own reading and prayer.
But I would like to offer a few reflection about the very famous passage about the Prodigal Son. First, the word prodigal means being reckless with spending money. Traditionally, this adjective has been used to describe the younger son who takes his father’s inheritance and blows it on women and other excesses. And true enough. But this story is as much about the father as it is about his sons, both younger and elder. You see, as much as this parable is about sin and repentance, it is also about mercy and restoration which are the gifts of the father. Furthermore, the father is gracious with these gifts to not only the younger son, but also to the elder. So, perhaps we can even extend the adjective prodigal to describe the father as well. He is lavish with his mercy and forgiveness. So, our reflection on this parable is much deeper than at first glance. A few recommendations:
1. Look at Rembrandt’s painting of this scene. It’s a beautiful picture. Just Google, “Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son” and it’ll pop up.
2. Read Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”- a great book that delves into both Rembrandt’s painting and the deep spirituality behind this parable.
3. Read Timothy Keller’s “The Prodigal God” – a great book about this parable applying the adjective to the Father, i.e. God.
Point for Prayer
“Forgiving Jesus, your love has moved you to seek the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son and daughter. You show us the importance of evangelizing so that others may experience your love. You urge me to have a reconciling spirit that favors repentance in others. With the power of your Spirit I will open myself to these attitudes and behaviors” (144). Amen.