Tax collectors and other “sinners” often used to come and listen to Jesus. As a result the Pharisees and the religious teachers complained, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”
So Jesus told them this story as an illustration. “Imagine a man who had a hundred sheep lost one of them. Wouldn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and search for the one that's lost until he finds it? When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders. Once he gets home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Come and celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!’ I tell you that there's more joy in heaven over a sinner that repents than over ninety-nine good people who don't need to repent.
Imagine a woman who has ten silver* coins, and loses one of them. Wouldn't she light a lamp and sweep the house, carefully searching until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Come and celebrate with me! I've found the silver coin that I lost.’ 10 I tell you there is joy in the presence of God's angels over one sinner that repents.
11 Once there was a man who had two sons,” Jesus explained. 12 The younger one told his father, ‘Father, give me my inheritance now.’ So the man divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son packed up what he had and left for a distant country. Here he wasted all his money living a reckless life.
14 After he'd spent everything, the country was hit by a severe famine and he was starving. 15 So he went and took a job with one of the farmers there who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He was so hungry that he would have eaten even the pig food, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘All of my father's workers have more than enough to eat—why am I dying from hunger here? 18 I'm going home to my father! I'll tell him, Father, I've sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Please treat me as one of your hired workers.’ 20 So he left and went home to his father.
Even though he was still far away in the distance, his father saw him coming, and his heart went out to his son. The father ran to his son, hugging and kissing him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I've sinned against heaven and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 But the father told his servants, ‘Quickbring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the calf we've been fattening and kill it. Let's have a feast to celebrate 24 because this is my son who was dead, but who has returned alive; he was lost but now he's found.’ So they started celebrating.
25 Now the older son was working out in the fields. As he walked towards the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what was going on.
27 Your brother is back,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he's come home safe and sound.’
28 The brother became angry. He refused to go in. So his father came out to plead with him.
29 He told his father, ‘Look, all these years I've served you, and never disobeyed you, but you never once gave me even a young goat so I could have a party with my friends. 30 Now this son of yours comes back, having spent your money on prostitutes, and you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 Son,’ the father replied, ‘you are always here with me. Everything I have is yours. 32 But we should be happy and celebrate! This is your brother who was dead, but who has returned alive; he was lost but now he's found!’ ”
* 15:8 Literally, drachma. 15:16 Literally, “seed pods the pigs were eating.”