4. JESUS TREATED LOST PEOPLE AS THE HEAVENLY FATHER DOES--WITH COMPASSION.
This is clearly demonstrated in Luke 15. This chapter records three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. All three share a common theme of care, concern, and compassion. Certainly our God can be aptly described as caring, concerned, and compassionate. God yearns for the salvation of men, not their destruction (cf. II Pet. 3:9).
The opening verses of Luke 15 are of special interest - "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them'" (15:1,2). Note the accusation being made again about the company Jesus keeps. Jesus then launched in to the parable of the lost sheep and taught that a good shepherd cares for his lost sheep and tries to restore them.
Then Jesus hits them with Luke 15:7 - "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." I can imagine the Jewish religious leaders grinding the enamel off their teeth over that statement! They would be thinking: "What?! You mean to tell us that God is more interested in one filthy, mangy sinner who comes crawling back in repentance than he is over 99 of us who are righteous and just?" Surely they would have been indignant to hear such. But Jesus didn't stop there! He then presented the parable of the lost coin.
These two parables clearly show that God has care and concern for the lost, whether they became lost unintentionally or accidentally. Finally, Jesus went on to the parable of the lost son where God's love is expressed so vividly for the one who has intentionally become lost. Of course, God is represented by the loving father. Sadly, the boy treated his father like he was already dead. He said: "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me" (15:12). In other words, since you are not going to hurry up and die and give us your money, just go ahead and give me my part anyway; let me get on out of here! So he gave the boy his portion of the estate, and the boy took it and went into the far country of sin and wasted it in riotous living with prostitutes and such. He finally came to his senses, realizing that in his father's house there was bread to eat and to spare, even for the servants. There was no reason for him to continue perishing with hunger. "I will arise and go to my father" (Luke 15:18).
Now the Jews would have conceived that if a sinner like that came crawling back and laid at the gate and properly humiliated himself and begged long enough that maybe God might finally let him come back in and sit in the corner someplace to be treated like the lowest of hired servants. But that's not how Jesus' parable goes! The boy plans to come back and say, "Hire me." But the father has been watching the road! No doubt he looked down the road from time to time thinking: "I wish that boy would come back." I wonder if he did not send out some of the servants looking for him from time to time.
Finally, one day he sees him coming and he ran to meet him. The son said: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son" (15:21). The father knew of the boy's penitence and interrupted him before the son asked to be made a hired servant. Luke 15:22-24 beautifully records what happened next - "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry." Remember, friends, that the father in the story represents God, and this is how Jesus treats the lost--with compassion (particularly toward the penitent; e.g., the Ninevites in Jonah 3). Our God runs toward the penitent with open arms--and may we do likewise!