“He Was Lost, and Is Found”
By: Dave Hadlock
In Luke Chapter 15, we find a series of three parables with the theme of finding something lost. As we look at these three parables, we will change the way we look at the parables by considering who Christ is addressing in the parable. This will also help us connect the parables and show how they teach us to change our lives.
Often when we read this parable, we view it from the perspective of the “publicans and sinners”. In verse one, we find that a crowd of sinners and publicans “drew near unto him…to hear him” speak so he is instructing the sinners. Yet, at the same time, the parables really come in response to the Pharisees and scribes who question among themselves how Christ could “receive sinners” and even eat with them.
By assuming we are both pharisees and sinners, we gain greater insight into the parables.
The first parable began with Christ speaking to the Pharisees stating, “what man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” Both groups (the Pharisees and the sinners) are found in the parable. Obviously, the “one” sheep that was lost represents the “sinners” in the crowd. The bigger question is how were the Pharisees being represented in the parable?
I believe the answer to this question is found a couple verses later in verse seven where we find a little divine sarcasm. Jesus, addressing the murmuring Pharisees, said, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Christ addresses the Pharisees sarcastically associating them with the ninety-nine sheep that are not lost. In other words, because the Pharisees in this parable are the ninety and nine “not lost” sheep, they feel they have no need of repentance. Isaiah 53:6 states, “All we like sheep have gone astray”. We are all lost sheep. There does not exist ninety-nine sheep that have no need of repentance.
Thus, the first step of repentance is a recognition that we are lost and in need of a Savior. Christ is the Good Shepherd but he can only find those who in their mortality (wilderness) experience are humble enough to recognize the fact that they are lost. This is the primary problem with the Pharisees…they have no need of a spiritual Savior. They don’t see themselves as lost. In a doctrinal paradox, we learn that we can only be found once we know we are lost.
The next step in making change in our lives is illustrated in the next parable. “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?” The one lost piece represented 10 percent of everything she owned. The number ten is interesting because it was a part of something that represented the whole (like tithing). The focus of this parable is on the value of that which was lost. She searched diligently because of the great worth of that which was lost. It was everything to her. Once the sinner recognizes he/she is lost, the change and repentance process can continue.
Value is ultimately determined by what is paid for something. Alma states that the price paid could not be “a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice” (Alma 34:10). The price paid for our soul was infinite. Thus, the worth of a soul is infinite. The price paid was the life of a God. Thus the value of the individual is the value of a god.
The last parable in the trio is known as the parable of the prodigal son. It began by stating that “a certain man had two sons”. Again we should remember that Christ is addressing both sinners and Pharisees in the parable. As the parable continues, we find that one son “wasted his substance with riotous living”. Obviously, this son represented the sinners who waste our Father’s inheritance with sinful, riotous living. I believe that leaves the “righteous son” as a symbol of the Pharisees.
As the story continues, the sinful son taught the way to change and repent. He recognized that he was lost saying, “I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee”. After recognizing he was lost, he confessed the sin. Confession is a key to change. Sin prospers in darkness and retreats when it is brought to light.
He then began to recognize his worth, “when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough to spare.” He recognized he had at least the worth of a servant in his father’s house. As he repented, he’d come to learn that his worth was greater than that. What began as the worth of a servant grew into the worth of a son, and from the son into a prince. “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him”. Though the son saw himself as a servant, his father saw his true worth and potential. He ran out, embraced his son and then commanded that he be dressed in “the best robe, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet”. He was dressed in the robes of a prince. He was welcomed back into his father’s house as a full son.
Upon seeing the royal treatment of the wayward son, the “righteous son” was “angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him”. The righteous son was angry because he wanted justice. He wanted the law to punish. The father offered mercy. Anger is often a result of demanding justice. The law cannot save. Those who demand and want justice, like the Pharisees, often find themselves filled with anger and on the outside of the Father’s house looking in. The father in his infinite mercy will come out and intreat all those outside the house and invite them to come in. The problem with the Pharisees is that they don’t think they need to be invited in at the mercy of the host. They feel entitled to be there because of their works.
I believe this parable is a good measuring stick on the path to the Father’s house. I believe we naturally associate ourselves with one of the two sons. I would suggest that if we find ourselves more closely aligned the feelings of the “righteous” son, we should look into our lives and starting asking ourselves in what manner we are lost, in what manner are we like the prodigal son. As we discover those weaknesses then the atonement can more fully start to work in our own lives.