Read Luke 15:1-20

People can find just about any reason to throw a party. Birthdays, for example. Some invite more celebration than others.  A child’s first birthday is a big deal in many families. Jewish girls celebrate their bat mitzvah on their twelfth or thirteenth birthday and Jewish boys their bar mitzvah on their thirteenth birthday.  Some Hispanic cultures observe a quinceañera celebration, marking a girl’s fifteenth birthday, and many families in North America throw an elaborate “sweet sixteen” celebration for a girl‘s sixteenth birthday. Japan holds a Coming of Age Day for those who have turned twenty, and other Asian countries celebrate a person’s sixtieth birthday.

But birthdays are only the beginning. Some of the most lavish parties are wedding celebrations. An Indian wedding lasts for days. In a Russian Orthodox wedding, the couple races each other to a special carpet where they will recite their vows. Instead of requesting “the honor of your presence,” a Jewish wedding invitation invites guests to “dance at” the ceremony, which does include a lot of dancing.

Beyond birthdays and weddings, we celebrate all kinds of other occasions. We throw baby showers, welcome home parties, housewarmings, bon voyage parties, anniversary celebrations, graduation parties, office parties, costume parties, New Year’s Eve bashes, Valentine’s Day get-togethers, barbecues, tea parties, garden parties, and dances. The French have Bastille Day, the Swedish love their St. Lucia Festival, and the Brazilians whoop it up every year at Carnival.

It turns out that human beings are party animals. But heaven has its parties, too.  Jesus once told a series of stories about lost things. He spoke of a lost lamb that was finally found. He told of a family heirloom—a precious wedding coin—that caused a woman to turn her home upside down until she found it. He wove a tale of a wayward son who wandered far from home and family, and eventually returned.

Each of these stories ended with a lavish celebration. When the lost lamb was found, Jesus said the shepherd joyfully carried it home on his shoulders, called his friends and neighbors, and said, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:6). When the woman in Jesus’ story located her precious coin, she called her friends and neighbors together and said, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin” (Luke 15:9). And when the runaway returned home, the young man’s father told 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” (Luke 15:22–23).

What can we learn from these stories?

          Clearly, Jesus wants His followers to know that those who haven’t yet experienced new life in Christ are inexpressibly precious to Him. Notice the metaphors Jesus chose: a lamb, an heirloom, a son. Each story reinforces the immeasurable value, in God’s eyes, of those who are not yet found.

          Jesus wants His followers to tirelessly seek after those who haven’t yet experienced new life in Christ. The shepherd goes out into the wilderness until he finds his lost sheep. The woman refuses to give up until she finds her precious coin. And, perhaps most striking of all, the prodigal’s father (in a culture where it was considered undignified for a man of wealth and stature to run for any reason) threw off all restraint, “ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

          Finally, Jesus wants His followers to know that reclamations bring rejoicing in heaven. That’s right! Finding the lost launches parties in heaven. God and His angels applaud and celebrate whenever a lost soul comes home.

Jesus wants us to understand that we were once the lost sheep, the lost heirloom, the lost son. We bring joy to the heart of God when we turn the story around and become one who seeks that which is lost.