A. The lost sheep: a sheep tends to just wander off, it’s an animal. It needs guided and cared for, and if it wanders it needs found.
B. The lost coin: gravity and physics, and a dropped coin becomes a lost one. It is totally unable to find itself—it must be found.
C. The lost son: the first two are most likely lost due to accident or misfortune. The son? He is lost due to his own will. Unlike the others, the son chose to get lost and has the capacity to return.
A. The sheep-owner: he knows just how many he should have, and has the capacity to protect the remaining ones while he looks.
B. The coin-seeker: again, she is aware of how many coins she should have, and then goes to great lengths to find the missing one.
C. The son-finder: he does not go out to find the son, but he did hold a seat at the table for him. He also allowed the son’s departure, though he obviously laments the son’s choice.
A+B. Friends and neighbors: Both coin and sheep result in celebrations with friends and neighbors, as joy is shared with others.
C. In the son story, we do not get the exact participants in the crowd. The father says “we,” and so one can assume the presence of members of the household. It is possible that the neighbors are there. Of greater concern is the highlight of the missing participant in the celebration: The unhappy onlooker. He appears only in this parable of the three.
In Practice: Attaching a practical significance to this passage requires us to understand who these simple characters are. From there, we see who we are, who we should be, and who we are not.
In Nerdiness: Feels like I took it all the way apart, leaving nothing for nerds, right?
If He used fictional stories, what does that say about balancing truth with fiction in explanation?