It’s important to read Jesus’s parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son in context so that we understand why Jesus told these parables.
In Luke 15:1-2 (NIV), we read: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'” This criticism precipitated Jesus’s telling of the parables.
With the lost sheep, Jesus highlighted the care of the shepherd for all of his sheep and his tenderness and joy when the one lost sheep was found. “[H]e joyfully puts [the sheep] on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together” to rejoice with him. (Luke 15:5-6)
With the lost coin, Jesus emphasized the diligence of the coin owner in searching for the lost coin, even though she still had nine others. “Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” Then, as with the shepherd, rejoicing with her friends occurs. (Luke 15:8-9)
With the lost son, Jesus portrayed a forgiving, loving, waiting, welcoming, compassionate father. “‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.'” (Luke 15:23-24)
Jesus placed an exclamation point on each parable by proclaiming that there’s more rejoicing over the one penitent sinner or one person who is found after being lost than over all those who are righteous. These parables were Jesus’s way of responding to the Pharisees’ criticism and teaching us. Yes, he said. I associate with the sinners, the lost. They are as much my people as the righteous.
He wasn’t like the Pharisees. He didn’t condemn. He embraced, searched, found, and loved. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for us.