15 Dishonest tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus’ sermons; 2 but this caused complaints from the Jewish religious leaders and the experts on Jewish law because he was associating with such despicable people—even eating with them!
3-4 So Jesus used this illustration: “If you had a hundred sheep and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? 5 And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. 6 When you arrived you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found.
7 “Well, in the same way heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who haven’t strayed away!
8 “Or take another illustration: A woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it? 9 And then won’t she call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her? 10 In the same way there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner repents.”
11 To further illustrate the point, he told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. 14 About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. 16 The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him. And no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21 “His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son—’
22 “But his father said to the slaves, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! 23 And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 “‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.’
31 “‘Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. 32 But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’”