Rediscovering Luke 15: The Context of the Three Parables

Through the years I have had a hard time understanding the three parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, as a set; have you? I thought of them as independent stories, often taught as though they are unrelated to one another. Distracted by the details of unfamiliar situations, (having never searched for a sheep, or coin, or been so hungry as to want to eat pig slop), I was challenged get a handle on the underlying message Jesus conveyed. It must have been a really important message, since He tried three different ways to get it across! It's as if He was thinking, "Okay, if they can't relate to that first one, maybe they'll get one of these other two!" Now that my life experience with sheep has given me insight to help me understand one of these stories better I find it easier to see the underlying themes of all three. They hold together far better than I imagined!