Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming
near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble,
saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So He told them this
parable, saying, "What man among you, if he has a
hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the
open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has
found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he
calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me,
for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that in the same way,
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she has
ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house
and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls
together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found
the coin which I had lost!' In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the
presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." And He said, "A man
had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share
of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. And not
many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a
journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose
living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that
country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to
one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed
swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine
were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his
senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread,
but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say
to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer
worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men." ' So he got up
and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw
him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And
the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I
am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves,
'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand
and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat
and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was
lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in
the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and
dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these
things could be. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has
killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' But
he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began
pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many
years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and
yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my
friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with
prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' And he said to him, 'Son,
you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to
celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live,
and was lost and has been found.'"
Tonight I am going to challenge you to think. As always, I do not ask you to
agree, but I do ask you to think about something that you likely thought you had
all figured out. I certainly did!
We will start by looking at the text in Luke. You will need a Bible, so use
yours or use one of the pew Bibles. We will begin by turning to Luke 13.
- I want to note that Luke 13 begins a section in this gospel in which the
Pharisee's perspective on God's thinking is contrasted with Jesus' teachings
about God's perspective.
- Look at Luke 13:31.
- The Pharisees said to Jesus, "Leave this area--you are causing this
area to come under the scrutiny from the authorities, and we do not need
- Jesus responded, "The authorities are not concerned about the
spiritual well being of Jerusalem!"
- "I will leave, but it is because it is not yet time for me to die."
- "The salvation of Jerusalem does not depend on my physical presence
or absence--it depends on understanding my teachings."
- "I want to spare Jerusalem, but Jerusalem does not want to be
- "Tragedy in Jerusalem is inevitable!"
- Note the contrast:
- The Pharisees: "Jerusalem will be secured by your physical absence!"
- Jesus: "Jerusalem will be secured by listening to me!"
- Look at 14:1
- Jesus was eating (by invitation) in the home of one of the leading
Pharisees (members of the elite Jerusalem Sanhedrin).
- He was watched closely to observe his actions (likely to be
- Jesus' question: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
- They would not answer, so he healed a sick man present and sent him
- He asked, "Is it okay to help an animal on the Sabbath (but not a
- Note the contrast:
- The Pharisees view: "Wait until the day after the Sabbath to heal."
- Jesus' view: "Do good when the opportunity presents itself--even if
it is the Sabbath."
- That event is followed by a series of parables and teachings.
- Look at 15:1,2.
- The grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes is the preface (context) of
these three well known parables.
- What Jesus taught had a powerful appeal to the worst of the worst:
the tax collectors and the sinners.
- The tax collectors were regarded as traitors and thieves.
- The sinners were people everyone knew to be evil people engaged in
- From the perspective of these religious leaders in Israel, Jesus was
appealing to and associating with the wrong kind of people.
- People would get the wrong impression of God if Jesus appealed to
people who did not belong to God.
- Jesus discredited himself and his teachings because of the kind of
people he appealed to and associated with.
- In response to the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about his appealing to
and associating with the wrong kind of people, Jesus told three parables based
on some commonly understood realities of life.
- The three parables are likely quite familiar to most of you.
- The parable of the lost sheep.
- The parable of the lost coin.
- The parable of the lost son and older brother.
- Typically speaking, we look at each of those parables from our American
- We interpret each of them as though they happened in this country and
this culture with our values.
- We even make the points of the parable and the lessons to be taught as
though the parable occurred in this country in our world of today.
- We take the act of repentance to be centered exclusively in human
acts--the focus is entirely on what we do to repent.
- That is an interesting way to approach the parables since few of us
are shepherds and never have had a shepherding lifestyle, few of us have
a headdress of coins that may have been part of a dowry, and few of us
have been a middle eastern father.
- Our way of approaching the parables has nothing to do with the
culture or setting in which they were given.
- Our view of the parables and their lessons are distinctly
different from their view of those parables.
- That means the lessons they heard and the lessons we hear are not
the same lessons.
- Here is where I want to challenge you to think: what if the three parables
are about God's involvement in repentance instead of our acts of repentance?
- What if the basic point of all three parables is the same: God is
actively involved in the human response of repentance?
- What if the parables are about God's involvement in repentance instead
of the human act of repenting?
- That would be contrary to our whole philosophy of salvation.
- Salvation primarily rests on us--we basically save ourselves through
acts of human obedience.
- Too many of us have little place for God's actions in the salvation
- In theory we say God is involved, but for many of us we doubt God's
- Allow me to call your attention to some facts.
- First, consider the parable of the lost sheep.
- The sheep was lost because it simply was not paying attention to
where it was in reference to the shepherd and the flock.
- The shepherd secured the 99 sheep and searched for the lost sheep.
- The shepherd found the lost sheep; it did not come wandering back to
the security of the fold.
- The shepherd carried the lost sheep back to the fold--he did
not even make it walk to pay for its "stupid" mistakes!
- Who was responsible for ending the 'lostness' of the lost sheep--the
shepherd or the sheep? Who was actively involved in the recovery?
- Second, consider the parable of the lost coin.
- That concept is so foreign to most of us we do not even relate to
- The lost coin had a sentimental value to the lady.
- She searched for it.
- She found it.
- Did the lost coin cease to be lost because of the actions of the
lady or the actions of the coin?
- Third, consider the parable of the prodigal son and his older brother.
- When the younger son wished to go, what did the father do?
- When the son returned, how did the father react?
- When the returning son expressed the willingness to be a slave, how
did the father react?
- Did the older brother think the father's actions were proper?
- Consider some additional facts:
- The sheep was found because it was of value to the shepherd.
- The coin was found because it had value to the lady.
- The father acted in ways that were totally unacceptable in any middle
eastern society because the son had value to the father.
- The son insulted the father by leaving, but the father refused to
react to the insult.
- The son insulted his entire family by the way he lived in exile, but
the father refused to react to the insult.
- The father should not have run to the son, rewarded the son, given a
feast for a son who insulted him.
- The father's actions made no sense to the older brother--to him it
seemed the father was rewarding evil behavior.
- The contrast continued:
- The Pharisees' and society's view: the son should be regarded as dead
to the father because he insulted his father and his family.
- Jesus' view: The son continued to have value to the father.
- The lesson: God rejoiced in the interest of the tax collectors and
sinners, and would willingly forgive them.
- This same kind of contrast is seen in 16:14, Now
the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things
and were scoffing at Him.
- Let me paraphrase this whole section in these words.
- The Pharisees: "You cannot be serious about that! That is not the way
God does things! That is not what God wants!"
- Jesus: "I am very serious! This is exactly what God wants! I see
things exactly as God sees them--He told me what to say!"
- To most of us, that should be a frightening perspective!
Thank God He is a God of grace! Thank God He knows our motives! Thank God His
forgiveness is continuous! May He give us the courage and strength to be a
people who repent!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 23 April 2006
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