I have lost one of my credit cards. Though I have no idea exactly where it is, I’m quite sure I’ve lost it somewhere in my own world; it is not in the parking lot at Walmart or something like that. It has likely fallen into a cushion of a seat at home or is lodged in a tight spot in my car (very believable, since I found a credit card of the previous owner there). It has been missing for months. Someday I’m going to stumble across it. But something that won’t happen on that day – I won’t be calling you with an invitation to join me and several hundred other friends at a fine restaurant (it’s a small credit balance).
So as we go to Luke 15 and look at the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the common denominator in each is how the joy that is expressed upon finding what was lost is all out of proportion to what was lost. And the big idea is to see that no matter how big or small the sin of one who is restored to relationship with God, His joy is expansive beyond all comparison.
And the joy of each of these may seem a bit over the top to us also, because it is rare for each of us to completely suppress our inner Pharisee.
Luke 15:1 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
To the Pharisees, all of the hanging out that Jesus did with the sinner classes of people was, for them, totally over the line.
When it says here that they were all gathering around to hear Jesus, it actually means that these classes of people were in the habit of swarming around him. This indicates that these parties of people, who did not keep the Law like the Pharisees, saw something very different in the attitude of Jesus than what they saw in the religious, Pharisaic classes in Israel.
Jesus welcomed them – meaning he was willing to be seen with them; he even selected one of them as a disciple.
He even ate with them. Eating with people in that culture signified that you identified with them. In the minds of the Pharisee, they could not grasp why a righteous person – say, like themselves – would do such a thing and yet still think they are godly?!
So, a question even for us today: “Is it right or wrong to associate with unregenerate sinners?” Jesus essentially answers this with three parables – three stories that illuminate the heart difference between God and the Pharisees. (The third is the Prodigal Son account that we turn to tomorrow.)
Jesus, as always, knows what they are thinking and what is the nature of their hearts’ condition. And whether he heard their murmurings or not, rather than confront it directly, he tells them these stories that have an impact bigger than any frontal rebuke could contain.
Luke 15:3 – Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Jesus is in a region where sheep raising abounded. A person has 100 sheep. By the standards of that day, that would be far from a rich person, yet also well more than a poor family. This would probably represent a sort of middle to upper middle-class person.
So, how many of you would be devastated to lose 1% of your wealth? Would you be sad? Yes. But devastated? No. And would you put the 99% that remains at risk to seek to recover the 1% that you lost? Probably not. So that’s a little weird right there.
And then, when you found it, would you go on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and send a group email and selfie stick picture with you and the sheep – to have everyone come to your house to celebrate with you because you found the 1% that was missing? No. This doesn’t make sense! But you have to admit that it is joyful!
But it makes sense in heaven! Really? Don’t the angels have better stuff to do than get together around the throne and high-five one another when someone trusts in Christ? Apparently, it’s a big deal … every time!
Maybe the next parable will seem more reasonably measured to us …
Luke 15:8 – “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Can any of you relate to losing something in your house? I do this – like several times a day – especially keys, sometimes my phone, etc. Just imagine how bad it would be if you had a dirt floor!
The word used here in the text for a silver coin would seem to signify that it was a day’s wage value that was lost. So, a decent sum of money, but not a fortune. And the lady was working on Dave Ramsey’s plan (at least I think she was) of seeking to save two months of wages for a time of crisis. And so far, she had two week’s worth in her 10 coins. So, for us, losing one coin might be the equivalent of say, $250-300.
Therefore, if she is going to have a party to celebrate, and she’s going to invite what appears to be more than a few neighbors and friends, she’s going to end up spending more money than she just recovered by finding the coin. She’s going to be worse off than if she had never found the coin again at all! This doesn’t make sense! But you have to admit that it is joyful!
God gave mankind a perfect place to live, having also a perfect relationship with Himself. There were few restrictions, only one really. But man rebelled, and over the years he rebelled more and more. The sin required the sacrificial death of God’s only son. And even with this ultimate provision, the majority of mankind rebelled more and more and refused the free gift of eternal life. Here and there, some single one of them turns to God by faith in Christ, and the party begins in heaven. This doesn’t make sense! But you have to admit that it is joyful!