The fifteenth chapter of Luke is all about things that are lost and found. Verses 1-7 are the parable of the lost sheep; verses 8-10 are about the woman who found a lost coin, and 11-32 are the parable of the prodigal son.
Zooming out a little further from these three stories in the text, we find them nestled in between other parables in chapters 14 and 16 that have a harsher tone and mention judgments of various kinds. In chapter 14 Yeshua recounts parables regarding invitations to banquets that are rejected or misused, along with a challenging call to discipleship. Chapter 16 is the parable of the unjust steward and then the rich man and Lazarus. Yet, in between these judgment parables are the three stories of redemption and reuniting.
While all of these parables have wonderful messages for application within themselves, viewing them all together also reveals a larger message. Through this intentional arrangement of Yeshua’s teachings, it appears Luke as the author is highlighting the overall tenor of Yeshua’s mission: the willingness of God to seek out and forgive amidst an environment of rejection and judgment. Judgment was coming upon Israel because of their rejection of him, but God was earnestly seeking out any who would be repentant; he was willing and ready to forgive.
Matthew 4:14-17 – …what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Yeshua began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Just as the good shepherd went and searched for the one lost sheep, or the woman diligently searched for the lost coin, Yeshua reveals that God was scouring through his people, looking for those who were sincere in turning to him. The lost son does not only arrive back at home after squandering his inheritance, but the father runs to meet him as he repents of his waywardness. All of these are indications of how God was anxious for his people to turn back to him from their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. He was earnestly looking for those with pure hearts who were hungry for true righteousness and faithfulness to his Word, his torah, or instruction.
As Israel was meant to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), we can draw insight for application in our lives, as well. If these parables demonstrate the true heart of God for those who are repentant, then we can have confidence that God is not only willing to receive those who turn to him with true hearts and sincerity, but he will earnestly seek them out.
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