Luke 15: Loving the Lost, part 2: A Tale of Three Lambs

JeffThis chapter covers a central theme via the interrelated parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son: The Son of God was sent to “find” and “bring back” the “lost sheep” of Israel. With the soon approach of the annual Lamb Selection Day for Passover — 10th day of the first month of God’s calendar — it’s fitting to note God’s “tale of three lambs” in Luke 15 and throughout Scripture:

  1. flock or sheep pen of God (the righteous)
  2. lost sheep from that flock (“sinners” and those “far off” of the nations)
  3. “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29)

PDF Luke 15 notes

Rather than being those who flippantly said to the Lamb of God, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Matt. 8:19; Luke 9:57), we should yearn to become those who truly are like the perfectly complete number of the people of God, as we read in Rev. 14:2-5. The 144,000 mentioned here are what you might call “perfectly perfect,” as the number 144,000 is 12,000 x 12,000. This is a picture of Lamb Selection Day on the 10th of Aviv. 

These three parables in Luke 15 are a springboard for the discussion of materialism in the following chapter. We see that it starts with the “grumbl[ing]” of the Pharisees and scribes, who were teachers of the Torah as well as copyists, about Yeshua’s having close association via table fellowship with “sinners” such as tax collectors, who were often less-than-scrupulous agents of the oppressive and pagan Roman empire, and prostitutes (Matt. 21:31–32). Yeshua said they knew the letters on the page but asked if they really knew the One who wrote that book. They didn’t really know God as well as they wanted people to believe they knew Him. 

Yeshua’s mission was for the lost. He wanted them to know who the lost are and when they were lost. We became “lost” since Eden and God has been working since Eden to rectify that loss. 

The Pharisees didn’t really understand what they were to separate from nor did they understand the purpose of the Law. The purpose of the law was to bring the lost back into fellowship with their Creator. 

Symbols of Luke 15 parables

Lost sheep

Lost coin

Rebellious son





God (Son of God as the agent)




Israel (God’s representatives to the nations)

lost sheep

lost coin

rebellious son

rebellious of Israel (don’t follow God’s teaching)

99 sheep

nine coins

loyal son

righteous of Israel (follow God’s instructions)

return of the lost sheep

discovery of the lost coin

return of the rebellious son





Heaven rejoices when rebels pursue teshuvah.

The point: Yeshua came to save the “lost,” the “dead,” those “far off” from God (Eph. 2:13), the source of life. God wants those to be truly be “alive” and “near,” having a view of the way things work best (God’s “ways”) and the ultimate end of way things don’t work best or become miserable (“ways” of the world, of rebellion against God).

Luke 15:3–7: Parable of the lost sheep

Sheep wander and the job of the shepherd is to make sure they don’t wander too far and to protect the sheep from predators. Sheep get enticed by greener or wetter grass, and are easily distracted and don’t always pay close attention to their surroundings. 

In the parable, Yeshua taught that God is seeking to bring back those who lose their closeness with God because of enticements, distractions and inattentiveness to their drift from the presence of God. 

That’s part of the mission of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, as foretold by Yeshiyahu (Isaiah):

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” (Isa 53:6–7)

There’s a longer discussion of this same topic in Ezekiel 34. Through the prophet יְחֶזְקֵאל Yekhezqeʾl (Ezekiel), God expressed both sadness and anger at those appointed to lead the people closer to God — called “the shepherds of Israel” (v. 2) — actually did the opposite and scattered the sheep and did not pay attention to predators. They were blocking God’s efforts to redeem the lost to Himself. God wants His flock to include as many of earth as possible. He wants to expand His reach and influence to the whole world.  That is His goal.

This applied to Yeshua’s day and is germane to ours. God gets angry with teachers and leaders of His people who put their own interests and traditions ahead of the message of God. The message of God is to “receive” those returning to Israel and joining that Body of the Messiah from the nations not to push or scare them away from God. 

Yeshua was very harsh when He spoke to the Pharisees because they were scattering the sheep, not bring them in. This entire chapter (Ezekiel 34) echoes Yeshua’s frequent criticisms of how the Pharisees were leading God’s people. 

Thankfully, the Lord foretold through Ezekiel that He would set “one shepherd, my servant David” over His “flock.”

 As the 10th plague against Mitzraim (Egypt), specifically the firstborn inside its borders, was about to come and finally free Israel from bondage there, God gave the instruction for the selection of lambs to block God’s Destroyer from killing the firstborn in that house (Ex. 12:3–6). God instructed each family or a group of families to select for themselves an unblemished yearling male sheep or goat on the 10th day of the first month, מִשְׁמֶרֶתּ mishmeret  (Strong’s lexicon No. H4931), to guard, watch, also charge, function it from that day until the afternoon of the 14th day — Pesakh (Passover) when they would kill the animal and put the blood on the entry posts of their homes.  This lines up with Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem on the 10th day, which is commonly called the “triumphant entry.” After that time, He is closely scrutinized by the leaders and the people, which ended in a kangaroo court trial and His crucifixion. Some chose the lamb to be their King, some chose the Lamb to die for them. 

Luke 15:8–10: Parable of the lost coin

“Or what woman, if she has 10 silver coins [drachma, a day’s wage] and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8–10)

Coins don’t know when they are lost and need someone to look for them and bring them back into fellowship with their peers. God and His son Yeshua are like the woman, who knows what is supposed to be in the coin purse and instantly knows when one is missing and has a single minded purpose to find the coin and bring it back into the coin purse. 

Luke 15:11–32: Parable of the “lost” son

Yeshua paraphrases this parable:

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go.  “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Iesous *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For Iohannes came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” (Matt. 21:28-32)

Yeshua is revealing God’s heart in these parables. This parable often is called “the lost son.” But unlike the sheep and the coin, the second son consciously left his father’s house. The old saw, “You didn’t know how good you had it,” might suggest that the second son, too, didn’t fully understand what he was doing.

The Greek word for receive, when we see the Father receiving the Lost son is προσδέχομαι prosdechomai (Strong’s lexicon No. G4327) has two interrelated meanings, according to the Thayer lexicon:

  • “in Greek writings from Aeschylus and Herodotus down, to receive to oneself, to admit, to give access to oneself
    • Yeshua was granting access to Himself, saying the House of God was open to receive those returning. That’s something Solomon prayed for in 1st Samuel 8.
  • “from Homer down, to expect
    • God is waiting for, expectantly, the return of rebellious Israel and those “far off” from God among the nations after thousands of years of separation from the knowledge of God.

God doesn’t make you wait until you have your act together 100% before He will receive you. This is a fantastic message. When we see the world as God sees it, we see that He wants His flock to grow bigger and bigger. 

The flip side of this parable is that the loyal son didn’t really understand the Father either. That son also resented his father’s lavish celebration when his “dead,” “lost” brother left his licentious life and returned. The first son wanted praise for dependably following his father’s instructions, but his father told him that he didn’t have to strive or yearn for what was already his.

At the beginning of Matthew’s account of Yeshua’s “sermon on the mount” (Matthew 5–7), Yeshua listed nine “blessed are you” — really, “happy are you” — statements and two parables of God’s servants being “salt” and “light” in the world. 

Those who consider themselves really smart and educated, they can read small scraps of Hebrew in potshards and parchments yet they have no idea what is really in God’s heart. Their teachings push away and scatter those who God is trying to bring close to Himself. 

Yeshua prefaced six “you have heard it said … but I tell you” teachings on the Torah by saying that true “righteousness” means following God’s instructions at a more fundamental layer than the teachers of the Torah and the Pharisees (those who separate themselves from the “unclean” via the Torah and expansions upon it). Don’t just look at what’s on the page or what some teacher says but look to God’s heart. 

In Luke 16:10-17, Yeshua tells His students what some might consider a very bizarre parable about an embezzling property manager who when facing an audit from the owner settles up the owner’s delinquent debtors — at steep discounts — to recoup what the manager had stolen. It seems like Yeshua is praising an embezzler, but look at the heart of the parable and find the real lesson here.  Yehsua is calling us to make the prudent decision to use the earthly resources God blesses us with to help establish God’s government. 

God is working to establish His government by bringing as many people under it as possible. May we understand God’s heart and gather and not be like those who scatter and devour the lost who God seeks.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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2 thoughts on “Luke 15: Loving the Lost, part 2: A Tale of Three Lambs”

  1. I was judged, mocked, insulted by the church member and priest, government, family, community and neighbour because I repent to Yeshua.

    1. A number of us in this congregation have faced varying degrees of persecution from our families, friends and members of our previous congregations because we came believe that Yeshua taught Torah-based holiness after free-gift salvation. Many have called us Judaizers.

      But we have not faced persecution from the government. We regularly pray for fellow believers who live in countries that do persecute such believers. We will remember you in prayer.

      I hope that God’s love has led you to leave the anger and vengeance for this injustice to the God of Abraham, Yitskhak and Ya’akov.

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