In Luke chapter 15, the Lord Jesus presents three variations on a theme that depict different aspects of the ‘great salvation’ we have come to know. In this article, we want to examine the scene at the end of each story to discover three unchanging truths – namely: (1) our security; (2) God’s word; and (3) the joy of salvation. We began to experience these blessings at the moment we were saved, continue to know them as long as we remain here on earth and will still enjoy them throughout eternity.
Eternal security – the sheep never leaves the shepherd’s shoulders
As soon as the shepherd discovers his lost sheep, he lifts it onto his shoulders, v. 5. The sheep is carried safely home in this place of warmth and strength. When we were saved, we were rescued by the Lord Jesus Christ who is the stronger Man, Luke 11. 22. As the Great Shepherd, He cares for us and we have gradually learned to appreciate the strength of His hands, John 10. 28, His arms, Deut. 33. 27, and His shoulders, Luke 15. 5. In the same way that Jehovah carried a fledgling nation on eagles’ wings, Exod. 19. 4, the Lord Jesus supports individuals who come to faith in Him.
The Shepherd’s strength is perfectly combined with gentleness. Shoulders are a place of intimacy. The loving Shepherd is close enough to hear the sheep’s heartbeat and feel the sheep’s breath. Conversely, the sheep rests in warmth and comfort, fully assured both of the Shepherd’s strength and tenderness. This experience is afforded only in grace to the wanderer who is rescued. The sheep which have been recovered by the Good Shepherd have the privilege of continuing to know His provision and protection throughout life’s journey, as Psalm 23 describes.The theme of eternal security is emphasized by the sheep’s position upon the shepherd’s shoulders. The Lord Jesus has promised that we ‘shall never perish’, John 10. 28. In the same verse, we have His assurance that no one can ‘pluck them out of my hand’. The permanence of our salvation does not depend on our faith’s feeble hold of Him. Rather, our salvation is entirely secured by His gracious grasp of us.
Eternal word – the light never goes out
The woman finds her missing coin only when the light is lit, v. 8. There is no possibility of recovery and rejoicing without the aid of the candle! We can note that there is no mention that the light is extinguished for, at the close of this short parable, the woman’s house remains illuminated by the lamp.
It is clear that the lamp, v. 8, is an unambiguous metaphor for the word of God, Ps. 119. 105. This light should be brandished by the church in the power of the Holy Spirit, Acts 4. 31. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word, radiated such light when He was here on earth, John 1. 1-5. Now the written scriptures provide light to the world as believers engage in ‘holding forth the word of life’, Phil. 2. 15-16. We first appreciate the lamp when we are saved, but the Bible remains valuable throughout the entire journey. Young Christians like Timothy need to read the scriptures, 2 Tim. 3. 15, as do old Christians like Paul, 4. 13. Paul reminded Timothy of the ‘profitable’ nature of scripture, which is just as true in the 21st century as it was in the first.
Eternal joy – the celebration never ends
When the prodigal son returns, immediate celebration is commanded by the glad father in Luke chapter 15 verse 23. The party is in full swing when the elder son arrives on the scene. The elder son’s journey to home was far shorter than the younger son’s homecoming. It seems that those who travel further have a greater appreciation of home! Despite the elder son’s attitude of resentment, the father and the younger son are joyful. This honest, earnest celebration is entirely different from the ‘riotous living’ that the prodigal had experienced in verse 13.
The Christian life is seen as a holy festival celebration, 1 Cor. 5. 8. Joy from the Holy Spirit enters our souls the moment we are saved, 1 Thess. 1. 6. This joy should remain with us and develop in us throughout our Christian experience, Gal. 5. 22, and will be consummated when we get to glory, Jude 24.