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The Three Parables of Luke 15

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

The Good Shepherd goes after the lost sheep.

The Good Shepherd goes after the lost sheep.

Luke 15 includes three parables that illustrate what happens when something is separated from the group to which it belongs. It is interesting how Jesus told the parables about three different groups when one thing or person went missing.

  1. The first is the Parable of the Lost Sheep about one sheep missing from a herd of 100.
  2. The second is the Parable of the Lost Coin where one coin was lost from a collection of 10.
  3. The last is the Parable of the Prodigal Son where one in a family leaves and the family unit is left incomplete.

In all of the parables, someone or something goes missing. There is great joy when what was lost was found and took it rightful place in the group.

Go After the Lost Sheep

The story of the lost sheep is found in Luke 15:4-7. When the sheep left the 99, it didn't know it would get lost. It probably got tired of being one of 100. It wanted its own space. It wanted to see what else was outside of the fold. Therefore, it ran away, and it got lost and didn't know how to return.

Sometimes, church members are like sheep who have gone astray. They want to see if the grass is greener on the other side of their own church. While they are out looking for something better, they get lost.

When the shepherd found the one sheep missing, he left the 99 and went after it. He joyfully put it on his shoulders and took it back to the fold where it was safe and was no longer lost.

The shepherds of the churches today don't do that, but they should go out and find the lost sheep.

A woman sweeps her floor looking for the lost coin.

A woman sweeps her floor looking for the lost coin.

Find the Lost Coin

Only three verses record the story of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10). A coin was lost through no fault of its own. Unlike the sheep, it did not run away from the other coins.

By the way, the Bible calls it a coin, but it was not money like a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter. It was one of ten charms on a bracelet that the woman's husband had given her for a present. She needed to find it before he came home.

The woman lit a lamp, swept the house and searched carefully until she found it. She called her friends and neighbors to help look for it. No one would go to that extreme over something that was not valuable.

The coin was out of circulation because it was not where it was supposed to be. The one coin represents members who are absent from the church. Church officials should know who are not in regular attendance and seek to find out why they are no longer in circulation.

The father welcomes the prodigal son's return home.

The father welcomes the prodigal son's return home.

Receive the Lost Son

The prodigal son returned to his father's house after he had squandered all his inheritance, according to Luke 15:11-24. He ended up eating with the pigs. Then he thought of being home in the comforts of his father's house.

He rehearsed what he was going to say to his father. His father saw him from afar and ran to meet him. He was filled with compassion and threw his arms around his son and kissed him.

The son said he sinned against his father and heaven. He confessed he was no longer worthy to be called his father's son. The father responded by getting the servant to put the best robe on him, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He instructed them to kill the fattest calf because they were going to celebrate the return of his younger son.

The father's house had everything the son needed. It was his place with food when he was perishing with hunger. That's the way the church should be. It should be a place to "feed" people and a place of refuge for those who are lost in the world.

The oldest son believed he wasn't treated fairly.

The oldest son believed he wasn't treated fairly.

The Older Brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

People don't talk much about the elder son who stayed home and worked on the farm, according to Luke 15:25-32.

The brother of the prodigal son was lost even though he was home. He was self-righteous and was angry when his younger brother returned home and his father took him back.

The older brother became angry and refused to go in to join the celebration that included music and dancing. So his father went out and pleaded with him. He said to 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 comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" His father explained to him that everything he had the older son had.

Because he had stayed with his father, he thought he deserved the celebration because he had done so much out of obligation.

The shepherd of the church should realize that everyone in the church needs attention and respect. They should not take it for granted that everyone is satisfied just because they stay and work in the church. No one should be overlooked. People should be treated as if they are valuable because they are.


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which is the first parable?
    • Parable of the Prodigal Son
    • Parable of the Lost Coin
    • Parable of the Lost Sheep
  2. Which is the second parable?
    • Parable of the Lost Coin
    • Parable of the Lost Sheep
    • Parable of the Prodigal Son
  3. Which is the third parable?
    • Parable of the Lost Coin
    • Parable of the Prodigal Son
    • Parable of the Lost Sheep

Answer Key

  1. Parable of the Lost Sheep
  2. Parable of the Lost Coin
  3. Parable of the Prodigal Son


Rosa on May 27, 2019:

Lately been fighting this war against my flesh at church from others whom have hurt my children .I like Paul kill this flesh daily and i know sometimes i look scarey on the outside but when i get into His presence it changes.But the church is a place to bring all your burdens...and i never come empty..Jesus always fills my cup..

Sebastian on December 04, 2018:

I was a committed member in my Church, but for a while I have lost interest serving, I feel used, and unsafe, I feel am only useful and needed just for the serVices I give,. I had wanted to leave but it's hard for me but I think your teaching has given me a clearer picture to move on, cause my soul is thirsty and my Church could not quench my thirst. I feel bad leaving but I have to leave anyways, am in hunger for information and spiritual growth, a platform to boast my ministry. Thank you for addressing my challenges . God bless you.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 19, 2018:

Dora, Thanks for reading and for your feedback. Suggestion Requested: How can I change the headline to include members?

CaribTales on March 19, 2018:

Not a pastor, but your teaching on these parables are also beneficial to members who care. Thanks for the lesson.

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