Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke contains three parables: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The first two parables are given above and we will focus on these. The parable of the prodigal son was read this year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
The evangelist gathers these three parables together because they all teach us about the joy of God at the repentance of the sinner. The opening verses tell us about those among Jesus’ hearers who were severely critical of his welcome to sinners. They ‘complained’. The Greek word in the original text of the gospel also means ‘grumble’. Those who complain here are like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son who refuses to join the celebration of his younger brother’s return.
The first two parables are rather startling. Would a shepherd really leave the care of ninety-nine sheep to search for one? Would a woman who found a lost coin really put on a feast to celebrate? The lack of realism in these parables teaches us that God’s behaviour goes far beyond human normality. God forgives in an outstanding way. In giving us a Saviour God shows a love far beyond any human love. The scribes and Pharisees found the forgiving love of God hard to accept. But what about us?