The Pharisees were criticizing Jesus because He welcomed tax collectors and other sinners to hear His teachings. To the Pharisees, these were “unclean” people who passed on their sin and corruption to everyone who associated with them. In response to this criticism, Jesus told three parables about several lost items that were eventually recovered-a sheep, a coin, and a son (Luke 15:1-32).
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus told about a shepherd with one hundred sheep who searched until he found one of the sheep that had strayed from the fold. In the parable of the lost coin, a woman searched her house diligently until she recovered a lost coin.
Both of these people called on their friends are neighbors to rejoice with them when they found what had been lost. In the same way, Jesus pointed out, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (verse 10 NKJV). Thus, He served notice to the Pharisees that He was sent to call the lost to repentance and salvation. This task was more important to Him than trying to live up to the expectations of the unrepentant and unteachable Pharisees.
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus actually told about two lost sons. The son who left home and wasted his inheritance eventually turned his life around, came back, and was restored and forgiven by his father. But the older son of the family wound up lost and trapped by his resentment toward his brother when he returned.
The disgruntled attitude of the second son reflected the mind-set of the Pharisees. In their pride and self-righteousness, they looked down on everyone who did not conform to their strict standards of righteousness. They thought they earned favor with God by keeping every minor detail of the Old Testament law. It was clear that they were just as lost as the three items in these parables of Jesus-and they would remain so until they repented.