Probably the most well-known song by 1960’s girl group, The Shangri-Las, was “Leader of the Pack.” One of many teenage tragedy songs, it told the story of a teenage girl who was dating a motorcycle riding boy named Jimmy. In the song, the young girl tells how her parents made her break up with Jimmy because he was not good enough. He came from the “wrong side of town” and was, in their opinion, “bad.”
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there are several incidents where the scribes and Pharisees grumbled about the fact that Jesus not only associated with tax collectors and sinners, but He also dined with them. In the eyes of these Jewish leaders, these people were not the type of people that Jesus should be spending time with. Like the “leader of the pack,” these sinners and tax collectors were from the wrong side of town.
Twice in Luke’s Gospel, the Pharisees confront Jesus about His association with these unrighteous outcasts. In the first instance, when they asked Jesus why He was associating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus responded by telling them that it is not the healthy person who needs a doctor, but rather the sick person. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to call those who were righteous to repentance, but those who were sinners (Luke 5:30-31). Jesus came to save the lost and to bring them back into relationship with God.
In the second instance, when asked the same question, Jesus responded with a series of three parables illustrating the value of the lost in the eyes of God and heaven. The first parable spoke of the shepherd who, having lost one of his one hundred sheep, left the ninety-nine who were not lost to find that one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). The second parable spoke of a woman who had ten coins and, when one was missing, basically turned her house upside down in order to find that one lost coin (Luke 15:8-10).
The third parable, of course, was that of the prodigal son, who requested that his father give him his share of the inheritance, which he promptly squandered away. When that son, who now had nothing, returned to ask his father’s forgiveness and mercy, the father rejoiced and threw a party. His lost son was so valuable to him that, now that he was once again found, the father wanted to celebrate in the biggest way possible (Luke 15:11-24).
These stories illustrate how God feels about all of us. When we were lost in our sin, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. He valued and loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son so that, if we believed in Jesus, we could have eternal life with Him. And, when each of us who was lost is found, there is great rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:10).