Are the parables of the Bible old and out of date? No, but in order to relate to them, we might need to think about them in our own context. As I write this, I am sitting with my dad at the gate for our flight from Louisville to Oklahoma City (by way of Charlottesville). I am very happy to be on this side of security because we were very nearly stranded in Kentucky. Here’s what happened. We got to the airport five hours before our flight because it’s been a busy week and I had a lot of lectures to watch and assignments to submit for the online class I’m taking. The deadline is tonight at midnight and we’re not planning to pull up into our driveway until after eleven. As I said, we arrived at the airport about 8:30 this morning, returned our rental car, checked our baggage, and found a soft place to sit where I could plug in my laptop. There was a Starbucks before heading through security. The soft sofas there with the plugs every few seats fit the bill, so we settled in for the long hall. In the next three hours, I listened to three lectures, submitted my quiz, and posted to the class discussion board. I felt very accomplished and Dad was thrilled I was nearly done with this week’s work. We got in line to go through security and made a mental check of things we needed:
Power chord? Check.
Cell phones? Check.
Water bottles empty? Check.
Trash thrown away? Check.
Metal we need to remove? Check.
Drivers’ license? Check. No, wait… One of us couldn’t find it!
If you’re not familiar with airport procedures in the United States, you can’t do anything without a government-issued photo ID. That means you’re stranded without one. This is a BIG DEAL! It wasn’t in any coat pockets, pant pockets, backpack pockets, or anywhere else on our persons. We had to present one in order to check our bags, so that was our starting point. We asked at the ticket counter if they had a lost ID. Their faces registered the serious concern the situation merited, but no lost ID was at the counter or behind it. They recommended we check with the airport lost and found. First, we checked the bathrooms we’d both visited. Not there. What about around where we’d both taken pictures of the airport Meditation Room (that’s a post for another day)? Maybe the ID fell out unnoticed when we pulled the phone out of the same pocket to take our pictures. Nope. Now it was time for the lost and found. I couldn’t quite remember where it was, so we started at the Information Booth. It was not staffed (lunch break), so I checked where the lost baggage for our airline was kept. The lady there again expressed great concern, but the lost ID she held was not ours. By now even I was starting to panic, but trying not show it as it would only make matters worse. I asked what our options would be if we couldn’t find the ID. Basically, there were none. We would have to talk to the ticket agents, go through a LOT of red tape, and be delayed at least a day getting home (possibly longer). Great. When I returned to the Information Booth, we noticed a phone to call if the booth was unmanned. When I called, the lady at the other end directed me to the airport lost and found (the police office in the airport) and said she would send an officer to meet us there. If we didn’t realize things were serious before, there was no denying it now. We arrived at the designated door just before the officer. When he approached, he said, “I bet you’re looking for a driver’s license.” I assumed the phone operator had explained our situation, but that was wrong. The officer let us into the office and said, “I believe this is yours.” He recognized us from the photo on the ID! What a relief we felt! It was like a five ton weight had lifted off our shoulders. We could now pass through security, board our plane, go home, and sleep in our own beds once again. Plus, we still had plenty of time to get to our gate and eat lunch. Praise the Lord! As we continued reflecting on God’s goodness and grace to us, I remembered Jesus’s three parables in Luke 15.
The Lost Sheep
15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So He told them this parable, saying,4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins 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.”
The Prodigal Son
When we teach these parables, I think we miss the emotional punch they originally delivered. Most of us are not shepherds. We are not a woman who values silver coins enough to clean the entire house until it is found. I think this is why most lessons on Luke 15 focus on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Still, we CAN understand the power of the first two parables if we relate them to something we value. For me and my dad today, it was a government-issued ID that allowed us to travel home today as planned. For a child, it might be a precious toy. The key is to find what we value enough that we'd drop everything to find it. Only then can we truly appreciate the lengths to which God goes to call us to Himself. Only then can we appreciate the party in heaven when one lost sinner turns from sin to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. God, give us Your passion for the lost. Never let us lose our joy, love, and appreciation for You calling us and making us part of Your family. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.