We have now entered the season when summer gospel work is on us. Preaching in halls and in the open air; bringing youngsters under the sound of the gospel during the weeks of schools holidays; camp work where the Word of God is faithfully set out; series of gospel meetings, and other means that are suitable for this time of year will all be used to sow the seed. The earnest prayer of those involved is that the seed will be watered and bring forth fruit. Those who engage in this worthy task are following the great commission to "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel" (Mk 16.15).
There can be no doubt that sinners gathered to hear the Lord Jesus. Indeed the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes was that "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Lk 15.2). They had come to hear Him (v.1) but He gave them the added privilege of eating with Him. This principle is still at work. Those who come to the Lord Jesus receive greater privileges and blessing than they could have possibly imagined.
The three parables that follow, the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, are all well known to readers of the Word of God. There is differing emphasis in each of them, giving the reader some insight into how the Lord considered those who came to Him. Like all parables they are full of truth, lessons to be learned and put into practice.
The parable of the lost sheep comes first. The scene would be well known to the listeners. Shepherds were a common sight in Israel, and to lose a sheep was a serious matter. Note that this sheep wandered off by itself, it was not led into danger. But in what condition did the sheep find itself? The point at issue here is the danger to the lost. Lost, it did not enjoy the protecting care of the shepherd. But the fact that it was one of one hundred sheep did not diminish the shepherds care. Those who bring the gospel to sinners are aware of the great danger surrounding those who are lost. Like the shepherd they will spare no effort in attempting to see the lost found and brought to safety through the gospel.
The second parable is that of the lost coin. The point here is the value of the lost. The coin would be a precious possession, which warranted the need to sweep the house carefully until it was found. God counts each soul as being valuable. None is valueless. The gospel preacher recognises this fact and values those whom heaven values.
The third parable is that of the lost son, well known as the prodigal. Leaving home with a fortune, he consumed it all in his wild career of riotous living. We see in him the poverty of the lost. No matter what worldly wealth an individual may have, a life without Christ is a wasted life with no real satisfaction. But this wastrel woke up to the truth and saw himself as a guilty sinner. The great moment of change took place when he acknowledged his folly and determined to return and say to his father, "I have sinned against heaven, and before thee" (Lk 15.18). What joy there was in that home when the father saw his son return. When there was evidence that the son had determined to come home, the father ran to him to give him a welcome far greater than he expected.
Just a little foretaste of that welcome has already been noticed in that the publicans and sinners ate with Him. But what a feast it was when the son returned. He expected to be received into his fathers household as a servant, but rather he would sit at high table, clothed in the best robe, with the ring of sonship on his hand, and his feet shod.
It must never be forgotten that the salvation of a sinner is a joyous act. In all three parables there was joy when the lost was found and when the lost returned. The theme running through them can be summed up in the words of the Saviour, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk 19.10). Let gospel workers this summer season be encouraged. They are not alone. He who spoke of the sheep, the coin, and the son continues to have an interest in His work, an interest that does not flag nor fail.