Lesson 1 June 29 - July 5

The Lost and Found

Read for This Weeks Study:  Luke 15 

Memory Text:  "The Sovereign Lord says: 'I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.... I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness' "  (Ezekiel 34:11, 12, NIV).

Key Thought:  Salvation begins with God's love and mercy.  It comes not as much through our searching for God as it comes through God's searching for us.



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WHICH ONE OF US has not experienced frustration over the loss of some thing, then expressed joy at finding it?  Thus we are drawn into Luke 15.  Studied together, the stories in this chapter paint a mini-picture of Jesus' ministry.  Indeed, the entire chapter glows with His love and grace.  It begins as Jesus is sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners.  (The Pharisees considered anyone a sinner who did not live according to their principles.)  The word receiveth (Luke 15:2, KJV) or welcomes (NIV) implies that Jesus was the host.  Because eating with someone symbolized acceptance (Acts 11:3; 1 Cor. 5:11), the Pharisees and scribes viewed Jesus as an irreligious man.

Jesus further displays His love and grace through the parables He tells.   In the first two we will study, He compares God to a shepherd and a woman, people from two groups in His society who had no civil rights and whom the Pharisees disdained.  In the third parable, He describes a father's compassionate behavior toward a son who does things no proper Jewish son would ever do.

Jesus invites you to feast with Him, to experience His love and mercy.

Sunday June 29

THE LOST SHEEP (Luke 15:1-7).

The differences between Christ's behavior toward sinners and the Pharisees' behavior force us to ask, "What is God really like?"  Luke 15:1, 2.  How does Jesus personalize His storytelling to help us find the answer?  Luke 15:3-6.

The questions with which Jesus begins not only relate to experiences we all have had but force us to evaluate our own response to this particular situation.  "The Lord knew that because of the value of what had been lost any of these hearers would have left the ninety-nine to go seek the lost sheep.  The search would not have been casual or of short duration; rather, it would have been diligent and would have extended until the valuable lost sheep was found.  The search would have been initiated and pursued because of the value placed on what the owner had lost."--J. Dwight Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 100.  The intrinsic value of the sheep was not the major issue, but the value placed upon it by its loving master.  Our divine Shepherd's love for us, the creation of His hand, gives us value beyond the possibility of human computation.

What is the main point of the parable?  Verse 7.  What does the parable teach about repentance?  Does verse 7 mean there are some people who do not have to repent?

The Jews believed that before God could be merciful to the sinner, the sinner first must repent.  This is probably one reason why the scribes and Pharisees muttered about the company Jesus was keeping.  They thought He should associate only with those who had repented.  But this parable teaches us that "we do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 189.

When a sheep is lost, it most likely will lie down helplessly.  It will not even stand or run. Thus, when the shepherd finds it, he must carry it home.   So it is with us. Sin renders us helpless.  But Christ searches for us and restores us to His fold.

The lost sheep symbolizes not only an individual sinner, but the one world that went astray among the vast creations of God.  Giving up the glory of heaven, Christ came to restore this world to its former sinless state.

Relate Ezekiel 34:1-14 to-the parable of the lost sheep.  What do these verses teach us about God?

Monday June 30

THE LOST COIN (Luke 15:8-11).

Jesus continued to show the muttering scribes and Pharisees why He ate with sinners, by telling another parable similar to that of lost sheep.  The lost coin could have been part of the dowry the woman received at her wedding.   Brides usually placed such coins in a headband they wore on their forehead for all to see.  "The coins not only had a monetary value but an emotional value as well, for they signified the bond between the bride and the bridegroom."--Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus, p. 101.

The woman's home was probably windowless and had a dirt or stone floor covered with straw to alleviate dust, cold, and dampness.  To look for the coin, she would have to light a lamp, remove the straw, and sift through it. But the value of the coin was worth the effort.

Summarize the meaning of the parable.  What does the value of this one coin teach us about the value of one sinner who repents?  Compare Matt. 26:33-35; Luke 22:54-62; John 21:15-17.  Jesus uses a woman to illustrate God.  What image of God does this portray?

We yearn to spread the gospel throughout the lost world. And indeed we should. Jesus even commanded us to do so (Matt. 28:18-20).  But do we sometimes obey this command at the expense of our families?  Do we show the same concern for an individual family member as we do the world at large?  The coin, like a family member, was near at hand.  Yet it was still lost at home.

"The woman ... searches diligently for her lost coin.... So in the family if one member is lost to God every means should be used for his recovery.   On the part of all the others let there be diligent, careful self-examination.   Let the life-practice be investigated.  See if there is not some mistake, some error in management, by which that soul is confirmed in impenitence.

"If there is in the family one child who is unconscious of his sinful state, parents should not rest.  Let the candle be lighted.  Search the word of God, and by its light let everything in the home be diligently examined, to see why this child is lost."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 194.

Does the lost coin symbolize any member of your family, or perhaps you yourself?  (Consider also your work family, church family, etc.)  How can you diligently search for that one?  Consider the possibility that perhaps it was something you said or did that prevents this person from being found.

Tuesday July 1

THE YOUNGER SON (Luke 15:11-20).

The Luke 15 parables share a definite progression.  The sheep knew it was lost, just as some people realize they are separated from God.  The coin did not know it was lost, symbolizing people who do not realize they need salvation.  What type of person does the younger son portray?  Luke 15:13, 14.

These parables also trace a progression of God's love.  First, we witness God's measureless compassion.  For the sake of the lost, He searches far into the wilderness of sin until His search is successful.  From the coin we learn of the value God places on even one sinner.  And as we watch the drama unfold in the last parable, we see that God's compassion and the value He places on us are established in the parent-child relationship.  God is my father; I am His child.

Even though the younger son came from a rich family, he was restless to seek his fortune.  Palestine itself was a poor country where famine and foreign troops often invaded.  Perhaps reports from the Jews outside Palestine appealed to the son's dissatisfaction with things as they were at home.  Thus he had the audacity to insult his father by asking for what would become his only at his father's death.

At what point during his independence did the younger son come to his senses?  Luke 15:14-17.

"Joined himself."  The Greek word means "to glue together."  In desperation, the younger son basically sold himself to someone who could only offer him a job no self-respecting Jew would accept.  A Jewish curse stated, "Cursed be the man who keeps swine."  Doing so meant that he would be in contact with unclean animals (Lev. 11:7, 8).

"Such is life in the 'far country.'  Distance from God means waste, want, degradation.  Its full and final outworking may take time, or it may hasten with terrible rapidity.  But it comes sooner or later."--The Pulpit Commentary, The Gospel According to Luke, vol. 2, p. 54.

"When he came himself" (Luke 15:17) illustrates repentance.  How can we reconcile the younger son's repentance with the lesson that "we do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 189.  Think about the true nature of repentance and the role it plays in your life.

Wednesday July 2

THE WAITING FATHER (Luke 15:20-24).

How do we know the father was concerned about and waiting for his younger son?  Luke 15:20.

"It was undignified for an old man to break stride and run, but this father discarded dignity.... Before the first word of explanation, he flung his arms around his boy's neck and kissed him.  In the Old Testament, members of a family commonly kissed one another, including a man kissing his son (2 Sam. 14:33); and an embrace was a classic expression of reunion (Gen. 29:11, 13; 33:4; 45:14)." -Peter Rhea Jones, The Teaching of the Parables (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1982), p. 177.  The father's joy was so great, it excluded any judgmental spirit.  How his actions must have shocked the scribes and Pharisees listening to Jesus.  They would have nodded their heads with satisfaction if the father had required repentance and proof of change before accepting his son back into the household.  Yet once again, Jesus illustrates the nature of His salvation through the father's wholehearted acceptance of his son.

What in particular signaled the prodigal's return, not as a servant, but as the father's child?   Luke 15:22-24.

Because he had asked for his inheritance before it was due him, the son knew he had no right to any more of his father's goods.   And because he was aware that his request showed more concern for his father's property than for his father himself, he knew that the father had every right to reject him.  Yet he knew that he would be no worse off if he were to become one of his father's servants.  But he never got the chance to suggest it.  Instead, his father hurried to give him the best robe, which only honored guests received.  Upon his finger, the father placed what was most likely a signet ring that only those with authority received (Gen. 41:42; Esther 8:2).  And upon his feet the father placed sandals, which only free men enjoyed.

Explain how the father's behavior confirms the role of repentance in the plan of salvation as taught by the first two parables.

How do you treat people who have left the church but later express a desire to reenter?  Do you display the same love and affection as the father?

Thursday July 3

THE OLDER SON (Luke 15:25-32).

The lost lamb, lost coin, and lost son represent people who have not accepted salvation.  The shepherd, woman, and father represent God and His salvation.  Whom does the older brother represent?  Luke 15:25-28.

The older brother's resentment is like the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees.   "To them Jesus says:  'Behold the greatness of God's love for his lost children, and contrast it with your own joyless, loveless, thankless and self-righteous lives.  Cease then from your loveless ways, and be merciful.  The spiritually dead are rising to new life, the lost are returning home, rejoice with him.' " --Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), p. 131.

"The elder brother is very unpopular-in the parable.  He is not unpopular in society, and he has many descendants.  He is sometimes an officer in the church, a leader in reform groups, a 'key citizen.'  He thinks, or wills to think, that all other races are 'inferior.'  A man out of work is simply unemployable. ... A prodigal like the younger son is just a wastrel. … Any neighbor of progressive mind is to him ‘a dangerous element in the community.' ...Friedrich W. Krummacher has an honest and penetrating comment. A questioner asked his opinion of the identity of the elder brother.  He replied: 'I learned it only yesterday ... myself.' "--The Intrepreter's Bible, vol. 8, p. 279.

What may we imply about the religion of the scribes and Pharisees from the words of the older brother in Luke 15:29, 30?

The elder brother's attitude separated him from God just as much as did his brother's prodigal lifestyle.  How this attitude exposes the Pharisaic spirit that often passes for religion!  But the older brother and Pharisees were not hopeless.  The father's words to his firstborn (Jesus' words to the Pharisees) in verses 31, 32, are in essence an invitation to enter into the joy of salvation.

Because Jesus wanted the parable to require a response from His listeners, He left it unfinished.  We are not sure whether the prodigal remains within the bosom of his father's love.  Neither, do we know whether the older brother decides to, join, the celebration.  Thus, we, the audience, must determine the outcome.  Are you the older brother?  The younger brother?  How will you write the rest of the story?

Friday July 4

FURTHER STUDY:   Echoes of the parables in Luke 15 resound through the New Testament.  Read Matthew 10:5-8; Acts 1:8; Romans 6:11-13; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 2:1-22.  Also review Psalm 23.

Read the following chapters in Christ's Object Lessons, "This Man Receiveth Sinners," pp. 185-197; "Lost and Is Found," pp. 198-211.

"The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring him back to the Father's house. . . . Miserable as he was, the prodigal found hope in the conviction of his father's love.  It was that love which was drawing him toward home.   So it is the assurance of God's love that constrains the sinner to return to God."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 202.


1.   The setting of the three parables' studied this week was a fellowship meal.  How is this meal a parable in itself?  (See Ezek. 34:23-31; Micah 5:2-4; Isa. 25:6-12; 49:8-13; Rev. 19:9.)  What types of people might sit with Jesus today at such a meal?

2.   The parables in Luke 15 teach us that God freely extends His mercy to sinners.  What is the need then for the cross?   In the last parable, where might we observe the element of the cross (sacrifice)?  (See Philipians2:7, 8; Heb. 12:2.)  How does what Jesus did on the cross compare to the father’s actions?

3.   After studying this week’s lesson, how would you answer the question "What is God really like?"

4.   What element appears in all three parables?  (See Luke 15:7, 10, 24, 32.)  What does this element teach us about God’s character?

5.   With which of the following do you identify most?  The lost sheep?  The lost coin?  The younger brother?  The older brother?   Why?

SUMMARY:  Yes, Pharisees and scribes, Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.  And that is the beginning, indeed the essence, of the gospel.  Unwittingly, what was meant to be derogatory actually proved to be complimentary.  A murmur against Him instead declared the truth:  Salvation begins with Christ and His grace.

A Little Kindness

Leonard Atkins

Sister E. G. Malopa is a pastor's wife and Bible worker in Central Malawi.  She has heard God's call for laborers to go and seek the lost, and she loves to find people who will listen to the call of Christ.

One day while visiting door-to-door, she met a family of seven people.  She introduced her reason for visiting by reading John 3:16, "For God so loved the world...... In the comer of the room, the family's grandfather lay on a bed, paralyzed.  As Sister Malopa spoke about Christ, the grandfather began to ask questions about God and Christianity.   Then he told her that he was discouraged and convinced that God had forgotten about him.  She listened as he told his story.

Twelve years earlier he had gone into the bush to cut some trees for the house he was building.  One tree fell on him and broke his back.  He could not move, so his friends carried him back to his home.  For 12 years he had lain on his bed, totally dependent on his family for all his needs.  During all this time, no one had come to visit or offer him encouragement.

With tears in his eyes, he told Sister Malopa, "you are the first one who has spoken words of hope and courage to me in all these difficult years of my disability."  Sister Malopa spent considerable time visiting with the family, offering words of hope and promises of God's loving care.  Before she left that day, the grandfather told Sister Malopa, "Because of your kindness, today I choose Jesus to be my Saviour.  Write my name and my wife's name in your Bible-class record book."  The entire family joined their grandfather in requesting that their names be included in the Bible-class register.

Sister Malopa left that home rejoicing in God's goodness.  She immediately reported her experience to the local Adventist church.  The pastor organized a group to go regularly to pray with this family.  They have organized a Branch Sabbath School near the village of these people so that they can fellowship with other Christians every Sabbath.

Sister Malopa has heard God's call for men and women who will go and search out every home where souls are longing to hear of God's love.  She has answered the call to make herself available to God to witness and care for lost and longing souls, not just because that is her employment, but because God's voice has said, "Who shall go for us?"  And, like Isaiah, she has answered, "Here am I, Lord.  Send me."

Elder Leonard Atkins is the chaplain at Blantyre (Malawi) Adventist Hospital and pastors a church in Blantyre, as well.

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