In Luke 15, Jesus tells three of the most famous stories in Scripture, back-to-back-to-back. He tells a little story about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a wayward boy. Jesus, the master teacher, is going to set these stories up carefully. He's going to bring a sharp edge to the point he's trying to make.
He starts with a significant number, a big scale, talking about one hundred sheep. But then, he's going to narrow this down, and in the next story, he talks about ten coins. And then, he's going to narrow it down to the point that he's going to stick in the heart of the story. He goes from a hundred sheep to ten coins to one son.
And then he's going to add another angle. The first story is about an animal, just a sheep. But the second story is about money. Aah, a little closer to the heart. But in the third story, real emotion comes into play. The third story is about a boy. A sheep, money, a son. 100, 10, 1. Jesus is bearing in.
You probably know the stories. There are 100 sheep, and one dumb sheep just wanders off and gets itself lost. Then there are ten coins. One of them is misplaced. And then, there is a boy who asks for his inheritance from his father early, which was socially unacceptable, but he did it anyway. And then, he takes it out to a foreign land, blows it on wine, women, and song. And we all know he doesn't sing much. In each of the three stories, something wound up missing. The sheep wound up missing. A coin wound up missing. A son wound up missing.
But more than that, we see that the thing that went missing really mattered to somebody. The lost sheep really mattered to the shepherd. The lost coin was one of ten. The lady lost a tenth of her estate. The lost coin really mattered to the woman. And the wayward son, undoubtedly, really mattered to the father.
It's also true that in each of the three stories, that which was missing warranted an all-out search. The shepherd leaves the 99 and searches high and low, day and night, for that sheep that had wandered away. Scripture says the woman lit a lamp, turned over all the furniture to search for the one coin. And the father walks to the end of the road by his house and searches the horizon every day to see if his son is coming home. When you love something, and it's missing, you search for it.
But the conclusion of every story is that there is great rejoicing when the lost item is found. The shepherd carries the sheep, the woman calls her friends, and the father throws a party to end them all.
Jesus' point is now crystal clear. Every single life matters to God. You matter more than your mind can comprehend to the God of heaven with his huge heart who has searched you out and who dreamed of bringing you home. You matter to that God. And every single life that doesn't know him warrants an all-out search. And when that lost life is found, all of heaven will rejoice in celebration. Grace is an outward focused church because every life matters to God, and they are going to matter to us too!