No one wants to admit they’re lost.
Maybe that’s why Jesus had to tell three stories in a row about things that were lost and found.
First there was the parable of the lost sheep. Sheep follow their stomachs from one tuft of grass to the next. If no one is watching them, they will wander off until they’re hopelessly lost. Then they panic and bleat to the point of exhaustion. In Luke 15, Jesus said the only way for the shepherd to bring the lost sheep home was to hoist it over his shoulders. It could only be saved at great cost to the shepherd.
Then Jesus told a parable about a lost coin. The woman who’d lost the coin had to search carefully to find it.
Jesus said that finding the sheep and the coin were cause for a community celebration, much like the way angels celebrate when a sinner repents.
How does Jesus connect a lost sheep and a lost coin to repentance?
Well, neither sheep nor coins can find themselves.
Jesus then told a third parable, where something infinitely more valuable had been lost: a son. The son had schemed to get a share of his father’s estate, then followed his appetites until his fortune was lost. So, he started scheming again—he would confess, say that he was sorry, and offer to work off the debt.
But the son was just as hopelessly lost as the sheep and the coin.
His father wasn’t interested in any of that.
No amount of bleating was going to make any difference.
All his father wanted was his son back.
Do you see how radical Jesus’ idea of repentance is?
When Jesus comes searching for us, all we can do is allow ourselves to be found.