The joy in Luke 15 is striking.
A man loses his sheep, only one of one hundred. But he goes searching for it. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (15:5). Then he calls to all his friends: “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (15:6). Then they celebrate, and Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (15:7). A sheep is lost and then found. The shepherd parties. Sinners are lost and then, through the gospel, found. All the angels party.
A woman loses a coin, only one of ten. She turns the house inside out, until she finds it. Then she says: “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost” (15:9). Jesus comments: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (15:10). A coin is lost and then found. The woman parties. Sinners are lost and then, through the gospel, found. All the angels party.
A man loses two sons. The younger son is lost through license. He rejects the authority of the father and runs off into wild, wanton living: “Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living” (15:13). The older son is lost through legalism. He rejects the love of the father and manipulates him through strict, moral, self-righteous living: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (15:29).
But the younger son returns, and the Father parties: “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (15:23-24). He pulls out all the stops. His best robe and the family signet ring are put on the guest of honor (15:22). The food and wine are plentiful. There is music and dancing (15:25). Simply put, it is a raucuos, joyous affair.
Jesus ends the story: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (15:32). It was fitting. It was right. This joy over a repentant, once-dead-now-alive sinner is appropriate.
Believer: Do you believe that your Heavenly Father feels this same measure of joy over you? (He does, through Christ.) Non-believer: Do you believe that the Creator and Sustainer of all things could delight like this over you? (He could, through Christ.)