The Shepherd's Heart

Luke 15  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Luke 15
Jesus gave a three-part parable about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. Each was restored and all heaven rejoiced.
One Lost Sheep and the Shepherd
A shepherd with a hundred sheep loses one. Leaving the rest he goes into the wilderness seeking it until he finds it. The sheep will never find its way back to the fold; it must be found, being a helpless creature. In
order to return the sheep to the flock, the shepherd must carry it on his shoulders all the way home.
The Shepherd is Jesus; the lost sheep, the sinner. This is a picture of a sinner who repents. Heaven is filled with joy. The sheep shows no effort or movement, it is simply carried by the shepherd. The other ninety-nine were left in the wilderness; they did not need repentance.
Jesus came from heaven to this world (a wilderness), walked through it, laid down His life and returned to heaven again to tell His friends that He had found His lost sheep. "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." 1 Tim. 3:1616And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16). How graphic an account of the fulfilling of God's eternal counsel: Jesus, the Savior, brings man, the sinner, to God through grace.
The lost sheep is found and brought safely home. All heaven, including the angels, rejoices. Only heaven is said to rejoice.
Ten Pieces of Silver
In the lost silver we have the second illustration of the work of grace. This time it is not the Shepherd who died for the sheep, but the Holy Spirit searching the innermost part of man's being for something that was lost.
There are ten pieces of silver. Ten speaks of responsibility. The silver speaks of something valuable. It also is used as a figure of redemption. Both the lost sheep and the lost pieces of silver lie in the place where they were lost. They are not able to do anything for themselves. Such is the case with the sinner who is lost.
The silver is valuable to the woman. She has lost it and is searching for it-man who is in a lost condition is valuable to God. God created man for His own glory, and, man being lost, God uses every means to retrieve him. Man as an object for God's love is valuable to Him.
The candle, a small light, suggests not lighting a room but searching for a small object. She sweeps the house to uncover, if possible, the dormant sinner in the lowest place, the dust.
This picture of the lost pieces of silver is an illustration of the work of the Spirit of God with man's spirit, so that man, by having his conscience reached, realizes how deep is his sin. It is like the lost piece of silver, hidden under the dust of the floor.
The woman (the Holy Spirit) is working in the house (Luke 15:88Either 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? (Luke 15:8)). It is what was going on, hidden, in the innermost part of man's being. Here, the house pictures the soul; in Matthew, the house pictures the outward, public testimony (Matt. 13:1,521The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. (Matthew 13:1)
52Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52)
). The "woman," as a figure of the Holy Spirit working, does not in any way suggest that the Holy Spirit is a woman; it is only a figure.
Again we hear of joy. What joy is this? The joy of finding a lost sinner.
The Prodigal and the Father: Reconciliation
The third part of the parable is about a father and his two sons. One son represents Israel in its special, outward relationship with God, but at a distance because of sin. The other, the younger, is a son who has gone astray.
The younger asks his father for his portion of goods. They are given to him, because he, like all men, must be brought to feel his need before he can be saved. Gathering all together, the younger son travels to a distant land, there wasting his substance in riotous living.
This is a picture of every man who has been born. There may be different degrees of manifestation, but this is true of all. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." To leave God the Father and go away as far as possible is just what the human race has done. In the work of the shepherd, the woman and the father we see God's ways of reconciliation.
Having spent all, a mighty famine came over the country and the son began to be in want. The vagrant son has finally reached the bottom; his substance has been wasted on pleasure. Joining a citizen of that country, he fed swine, wishing for the very food that the swine ate, but no man gave to him. His case was desperate.
How often parents, not thinking of the work of God in the soul of a wayward child, spoil the work of the Spirit by giving him things to alleviate his exercises. This only prolongs the work and his recovery. We must leave alone God's work in the soul (the innermost part of the person) for suitable results. (See 2 Sam. 14.)
An awareness of his need has arisen in his soul and he uses his own efforts to meet the need, but it is all wasted effort. Coming to himself, he thinks of the father's house and the servants who have bread enough and to spare, while he is about to perish with hunger.
He makes a decision. The soul must make a decision or be lost. He says, "I will arise and go to my father." This is the first step in the energy of the Spirit, but enacted by the lost son, could we say, "in faith." Only the Holy Spirit would lead in this.
When leaving the father's house, the wayward son did not want the father. Now, having been taught deep lessons, he wants the father. When he gets home he is going to learn the lesson that the greater the sin, the greater the grace.
To himself he says, I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. What a confession for a vagrant son. All men must come to this point in their souls or be lost. They may not have the outward experience, but they must have the inward soul experience of being "lost," destitute. He realizes that his guilt is in relation to his father. He says to himself what he will say to his father: I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
When he makes this confession to the father, the father, having run to meet the son, covers him with kisses so that he cannot finish what he intends to say-"make me as one of thy hired servants." Even when repenting, how little we know of the Father and His desire for us to know how much He loves us.
In this picture of reconciliation between God and the sinner, we have blessings that had never been revealed before. The best robe put on is being covered with Christ forever. He is our life and character. The ring is assurance of eternal relationship. Shoes cover the feet that went astray with an appropriateness for the father's house ( Sol. 7:11How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. (Song of Solomon 7:1)). The fatted calf, killed, is the memorial of the complete work of Christ. We feed on it forever, for it says, "And they began to be merry." The merriment will never end.
The elder son, the Jew, rejects his father's invitation to join in the happiness of the hour. He criticizes the father because he, having been faithful, has not been given a kid to make merry with his friends, yet when the errant son returns, there is a celebration. The natural, religious mind will never know the true meaning of "the God of all grace."
Not until we get home will we understand fully this parable in its three parts. How the vaults of heaven will echo as the praise rises and fills heaven.