Ninety-nine lost sheep, nine lost coins and a son excluded from his family. These are the stories that Jesus didn’t tell.
Ninety-nine lost sheep
A shepherd had 100 sheep. He let them out one morning to roam at will on the mountain side. Because they had free wills he allowed them to go wherever they fancied. As evening time approached he set off to find his sheep but he couldn’t see them anywhere. He despaired of finding any at all but eventually found one. The lost sheep signed a quick form and received a guarantee certificate of a nights safe keeping in the sheep fold.
Night-time descended and the sheep and the shepherd had a cosy nights sleep in the fold. The other ninety-nine sheep were eaten by the wolves that come at night.
Nine lost coins
A woman had ten silver coins. Because she was a widow they represented her security and income. One day she discovered that she had lost them all. She turned on all the lights and searched high and low for the coins. Eventually she found just one coin but the rest were mysteriously lost so she gave up looking.
Although she would no longer know prosperity the 10 coins would have brought, the one coin would fend off absolute destitution. She invited her neighbours round for a cup of tea and shared with them the good news of her relief at finding at least one coin. The other nine coins had fallen through the grille of a drain cover and were lost forever.
A son excluded from his family
A rich farmer had two sons. (He also presumably had a wife and maybe some daughters – but they didn’t count in those days!) The younger son was rebellious and asked his father for his share of his future inheritance. He was given a sizeable sum of cash so he travelled the world and gradually wasted all the money.
The elder brother was rebellious at heart, but not openly, and looked forward to one day owning his father’s estate. He became anxious that his younger brother might one day return and still enjoy the love and security of his father. He built a high wall all along the borders of the estate and topped it with an electric fence.
Years passed and eventually everything which was his father’s became his. The younger son was never heard of again.
These stories are very different from the stories Jesus told.
- One lost sheep was found and the entire flock of sheep was kept safe in the fold.
- The woman lost only one coin which she diligently found and the coin collection was complete.
- The lost son was welcomed back home and the family was once agin complete.
The Gospel is the GOOD NEWS that Jesus came to save the whole world. Let us not limit this to ‘fake good news’ and be like the elder brother who resented the fact that the father’s love knew no limits and included his undeserving sibling.
Here are the real stories that Jesus told from Luke chapter 15 (NIV).
The parable of the lost sheep
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.
The parable of the lost coin
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
The parable of the lost son
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”
The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”