The Pharisees and scribes -- doing everything they can to avoid the unclean, sick, sinners -- are up to their usual grumbling about Jesus receiving and eating with just these people. Time for another parable, boys…
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
My first thought? ME! That’s, who! Why would you leave 99 all alone in the open field to search for the one who stubbornly wandered off? It’s a numbers game. Stick with the 99. (Thank goodness God is God, and I am not.)
But Jesus continues, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 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.”
Similarly, Jesus tells of a woman that rejoiced after finding her one lost coin.
Sheep. Coins. Blank stares. “Still not with me?”Jesus may be thinking. Ok, let’s bring it a bit closer to home. He continues with another parable…
A man’s younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and ultimately squanders it all, starving in a pig pen. He longs to go home to his father. He rehearses his speech in his head as begins the long, shameful walk back home. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Over and over he practices what he will say. He knows it is a long shot. He has brought disgrace on his family. He imagines his father just seething with anger when he learns how badly he had screwed up his life and wasted all his father had given him.
You probably know the story…his father is waiting for him. His father runs to him. His father gives him the best robe, a ring, shoes, and kills the best calf for a feast. His son was dead and is now alive; was lost and now is found. Party time!
But that isn’t the end of the story. Back home the older son is the one seething with anger, refusing to go to the celebration for his brother. To his father, “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. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” Bitter. Entitled. Indignant. He storms off.
The father responds, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours….your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
We don’t know the joy of being found unless we first know we are lost. The older brother didn’t know how lost he was.
We don’t go to the doctor if we don’t know we are sick. The Pharisees thought they were quite healthy.
This is a recurring theme from Jesus. In Luke 5 Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Are the Pharisees righteous because they practically live at the synagogue? Is the older brother righteous because he stayed home and worked for his dad? They certainly think so.
If we think we can earn righteousness, Jesus isn’t for us. Jesus can only save a sinner who knows he is a sinner. This is a big deal.
Do you know you are a sinner? Do you know you need a holy doctor? Do you know you need a Savior? If we don’t know we need Him, we won’t earnestly seek Him.
I teach an 8th grade New Testament class of boys and girls that are in loving, Christian homes. They know the Bible stories. They memorize scripture. They go – even teach – Sunday school. But do they REALLY know they are sinners who need a Savior? Do I? It is a hard thing to grasp as an adult, much less a teen. It is easy to tag along to church, youth group, Bible studies, trying to do the “right” things without ever realizing we are dead in our sins and only Jesus can make us alive. But this is the Gospel.
I pray my kids, my students, my friends, my family, YOU & I recognize how lost and sick we are without Jesus. We are the wandering sheep about to get devoured by a hungry wolf; the lost coin full of value, but useless under the couch; the younger son lavished with priceless gifts squandering away on temporal things; the older son back home working hard to earn favor; the Pharisees going through the religious motions, content in self-righteousness.
God, let us never forget why your Son had to come and die. Thank you that once we recognize how lost and sick we are, you RUN to us. You are there all along WAITING for us. You REJOICE over us. And as the Church – your representatives – help us create an environment welcoming those who are sick, lost, and seeking sinners. Let us not become a country club for the spiritual elite who think they are quite well, but instead a hospital for the lost and sick. May we always follow your example of receiving, eating, worshiping with them, and most importantly pointing them to You.
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