LESSON 1 - "THE LOST AND FOUND" (LUKE 15
Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references
are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are
found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses
INTRODUCTION: This week we begin our new quarter on the Parables of
Jesus. These lessons are not just a random selection of
interesting parables. Instead, the lesson's author has selected
the parables to show us the steps to the kingdom of heaven. This
week we take the first step which is to look at God's invitation
for us to follow Him. Let's get into it!
I. PARABLE BACKGROUND
A. How many of you dislike hearing a story?
B. Aside from hearing compliments, isn't hearing a story the
next best thing? (I know you love stories. I put lots of
stories in my sermons and I can see your interest pick up when
I tell a story. I see that same thing when I'm in the
audience and the preacher turns to a story.)
1. How long can you remember a good story? (Seems nearly
forever. I find that stories will "pin" the point of a
sermon to the memory. How many times have you walked out
of church and been unable to tell someone about the
subject of the sermon you just heard? That happens when
there are no stories. But if you "pin" the point of the
sermon to a story, the people will remember the story for
a long time and (hopefully) the theological point as
C. Stories were central to the teaching of Jesus. Turn with me
to Luke 15. Read vv. 1-2.
1. Is this the background to a story? (Yes!)
2. What do you learn from these two verses?
(a. The "good guys," the respectable leaders in
society, did not like the crowd.
b. But they felt powerless to do anything about it -
- that is why they "muttered" under their breath.
c. People who normally would not be able to get
close to a "religious man" because of their
unsavory background were crowding in and actually
hearing and eating with Jesus.)
II. THE LOST SHEEP
A. Read Luke 15:3-7.
1. Who is represents the shepherd? (Jesus)
2. Who represents the sheep? (Us)
3. Do you think that the "Pharisees and teachers" would
be interested in being shepherds or described as sheep?
(No! Remember that the Egyptians thought shepherds were
"detestable" (Gen. 46:34). This was a lowly profession.
Of course, being a sheep was worse. So the Pharisees
would be turning up their noses at the whole thing: the
crowd and the characters used in the story.)
B. What is the point of this story? (That God has a particular
interest in those who are lost.)
1. Does this point have anything to do with the
background we looked at in vv. 1-2? (It has everything to
do with the background. The Pharisees were complaining
that Jesus was spending time, and even eating with these
people. Jesus says God's focus is on these kinds of
2. What about the numbers? Shouldn't 75-90 out of 100 be
lost instead of just one? Why did Jesus tell us that only
one was lost? (Probably. The point of having only one
gone is to underline the fact that God is personally
concerned about us regardless of how "low" we have gone.
First, this is a sheep. Second, he did not "need" this
sheep. He had 99 more.)
C. Did Jesus tie a rope around the neck of the straying
sheep and drag it home? (I love the picture: He put it on His
shoulders and carried it home!)
1. Consider the attitude of the shepherd. When your
children don't return home on time, or run away in a
store, what kind of emotions run through your mind? (If
you knew they were safe, it would probably be only anger
a. What would you say to them when you found them?
(Among other things, you are likely to threaten
them with discipline if this ever happens again.)
b. How does this "find" play in heaven? (Great
2. Consider the "attitude" of the sheep. Had the sheep
decided to come home? Had it "repented?" (Our lesson
points out that the religious leaders thought that Jesus
should associate only with sinners who repented. While
it is dangerous to place too much emphasis on the
specific facts of a parable, the Shepherd was no position
to know the mental attitude of the sheep. He only knew
its condition: that it was lost. What causes God to
"search" for us is our lost condition. We need not repent
for Him to search.)
D. We determined at the outset that the shepherd is Jesus. Is
it possible that we could be shepherds? (Matthew tells
essentially this same story in Matt. 18:12-13. The context of
that story is that we have a responsibility for the sheep.)
1. If so, do you want to cause great rejoicing in heaven?
III. LOST COIN
A. Read Luke 15:8-11. Who symbolizes God here? (A woman.)
1. First a shepherd, and now a woman represent God in
these parables. Why is Jesus framing these stories this
way? (A couple of explanations fit. First, God is looking
for helpers without regard to their status on earth.
Second, it was an unbelievable humility that allowed the
Creator of the universe to become a man. I think Jesus
is pricking the false pride of the Pharisees with the
characters that he uses.)
B. The point I like the most in this story is that the woman
lit a lamp to search.
1. Why did people light lamps?
2. Why was the invention of the electric light such a
boon to man? (It allowed you to extend your work day.)
3. What is the significance of this woman lighting a
lamp? (This woman could have said,"I'll wait until
tomorrow when I will have all this good light available
to me. Instead, she showed the urgency of the task by
lighting a light to look right now. For God it is urgent
business to find us.)
C. This time our "status" has improved. Instead of being one
out of one hundred, we are now one out of ten. We have also
become a "silver coin."
1. What is Jesus' point in representing the lost as
silver coins? (They were not only of great intrinsic
value, but the woman showed the value she placed on the
coin by making the most careful search for it.)
IV. THE LOST SON
A. Read Luke 15:11-17. Our last verse says that the son is
starving to death. What began the chain of events that led to
this situation? (Impatience. Selfishness.)
B. When would the estate normally be divided between the sons?
(At the father's death.)
1. Does that mean the boy was wishing that his father
were dead? When he did not die, was the boy forced to
ask for his share ahead of time? (Yes. I think this shows
that the boy was impatient for his father to die. That
certainly is a way the father could look at this, for the
boy "not long after" leaves. He did not care to stay
around his father.)
C. Those of you who are in retirement, and those looking
towards retirement, what is your purpose in having "an estate"
while you are alive? (Security.)
1. Did children have an obligation towards their elderly
parents in the Jewish culture of the time? (They were to
help them. Matthew 15:4-5)
2. How is this boy treating his obligation to support his
father in his old age?
3. Look at this from the father's point of view. The boy
cannot wait until he dies. The boy does not want to
remain in his company. The boy could care less about his
security in his old age (which, of course, would be
natural if he would rather his father had died).
a. Parents, what do you say about this child? What
if your son or daughter treated you like that?
D. The boy leaves his father taking with him his father's
money. Does the boy show: a) good financial sense; b) good
common sense; or c) moral wisdom? (None of the above. The NIV
says he engaged in "wild" living. The KJV says "riotous"
living. The Greek is "asotos" which not only means "wasteful,"
Vines says that here it also means "dissolutely." The older
son, who no doubt had a good insight into the character of the
younger son, but who had not seen him when he was gone,
accused him of throwing his money away on prostitutes. I
think we can accept this sense of what the younger boy did
with his father's money.)
E. How do things work out for the younger son in these verses
we have read? Is he doing well in a job that would make any
Jewish father proud? (He is starving, feeding pigs (an unclean
animal) and wishing he could eat what unclean animals eat.
This is not a proud father's "success story" the father wants
to share with friends at church!)
1. What would be an equivalent "success story" today?
(Son is sweeping up the floors in a house of
F. Alright parents, are you glad this kid is gone or what?
(This shows how extraordinary is God's love for us compared to
G. Now that we have a pretty good fix on what we would think
of our son were we his father, let's read on. Luke 15:18-24.
1. We decided that if we were this kid's parent we might
run the other way when we saw him coming. The father in
this story runs TOWARDS his son.
a. Did the son think he was worthy to be called the
father's son? (No! v.21)
b. What motivated the son to return? Love of his
father? (No! Hunger. v. 17. Let's look at this in
a cold, clear way. The boy started out wanting
something from his Dad. As soon as he got it he
left. The boy only came back to get something from
his Dad. Nowhere do we see that the boy acts out
of love for his father. He is motivated by what he
(1) Would any objective observer think the son
was worthy and had returned for worthy
2. Given this parable, can you doubt God's unrelenting
love for you? His love is beyond reason, beyond logic,
H. Let's read about someone who does have a good understanding
of what is going on. Read Luke 15:25-32.
1. Is the older brother right, from a logical point of
2. Who does the older brother represent? (The obedient
3. Does the older brother say that he served his father
out of love? (No! He says that he "slaved" for him. v.29)
4. What kind of attitude does the father have towards the
older brother? (Same kind, concerned attitude that he has
towards the younger boy.)
I. At this moment, who is doing the will of the Father? The
prodigal or the older son? (The prodigal is obeying by coming
home. The prodigal is grateful to his father. His actions are
now consistent with his father's will. The older son is mad
at his father. The older son's actions are against the will
of the father, because the father wants to rejoice in the
return of the younger son.)
1. Friend, is this you? Are you the older son who looked
at this situation and knew that the prodigal was taking
advantage of the father? The prodigal is now more in
accord with his father's will than the older brother.
Like our father, we should rejoice in the return of those
who have treated the father terribly. We should look at
the lost with a heart of love and a desire to bring them
back. And we should realize, that in our way we are just
as sinful as the "prodigals." Fortunately, God loves us
just as much.
V. NEXT WEEK: "Claiming the Treasure." We study what our response
should be to our loving Father.
INTERNET NOTE: This will be the last new Bible Study on the web site until August 9.