Of Lost Sheep and Missing Coins
[Luke chapter 15, verses 1-10]
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When we last left off at the end of chapter 14 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus had ended his teaching for that day by reminding those around him to keep their saltiness and their zeal for the life God gave us and our zest for living it. “Let him who has ears to hear hear me clearly”, Jesus had told them. Today as we move on to chapter 15, we find ourselves with the Lord and the Twelve, but at a different time and location not too far from where they had been previously. As always, a large crowd had gathered around them as Jesus taught the meaning of living a Godly life that will be pleasing to Him as we begin at verse 1:
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and teachers of the Law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls all his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.’” (Luke 15, verse 1-7)
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” ‘Look at him!’, those Pharisees were saying quietly to each other – probably cupping their hands around their mouths as they whispered slanderous things about the Son of God to one another. ‘He claims to be ‘king of the Jews’ and yet he consorts with disreputable people! He’s no king at all! He’s a fake! A fake king!’ You know, like something our current president might say if he were confronted by Christ. As usual, the most religious people in the whole crowd were the ones who were the most critical – even to the point of sarcasm – of our Lord and Savior. But Jesus cuts short their snickering and muttering in his usual way – with a rebuke that doesn’t sound like a rebuke. ‘If you were a shepherd with 100 sheep and you discovered one of your flock was missing, wouldn’t you go and get it?’, Jesus was asking them. Jesus was comparing himself to the good shepherd of Psalm 23, and not a single one of the Pharisees and “teachers” of the Law caught it! Our Kinsman Redeemer blew that one right by them, and these “religious leaders” were completely clueless! Most of them still are.
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” One thing we can infer from this statement (aside from the paramount importance of repentance) is that we should continue to be humble and never assume we have found righteousness in God’s sight based on our own belief or efforts. While I would be quick to agree that faith accompanied with our good works is always a good thing, in much the same way it is always best for us to assume we’re not quite there as of yet in our walk with the Lord. Salvation by the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins happened only once at the cross when our Savior was crucified, but our own salvation comes with a combination of justification by faith and an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord. So the former is a singular event, whereas the latter is an ongoing process which we must remain committed to for the remainder of our entire lives. Our Lord and Savior requires a 100% commitment from each and every one of us in this regard, and anyone who aspires to greatness must themselves become the greatest servant (see Mark 9, verse 35). Those who underestimate the importance of humility, voluntary servitude, and turning away from their sins (repentance) will find themselves locked out of the wedding feast for the Bride, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Bearing that in mind, let’s conclude this week’s study with verses 8-10 of Luke chapter 15.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and then loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’”
Notice that Jesus considered the salvation of sinners through repentance for their evil and selfish acts so important that he used a second example in order to give the greatest emphasis on the importance of turning away from our old ways, which is what repentance means in more modern vernacular. Only occasionally does Jesus ever repeat himself, such as the time when he said, “It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle that it is for a rich man to get into heaven”. (Matthew 19: 23-24) Conversely, those who do not repent, or who profess their belief in Christ while continuing in their sinful ways, are risking everything by not changing their ways – and let me add that time is rapidly running out. The time to turn from our old ways, our addictions (which can be just about anything), our thievery, and all the other things that keep us apart from God when we were all meant to be together with Him, is rapidly running out. Turn from your old ways while you still have time, and while you still have the choice! Don’t just “accept” Jesus like the TV evangelists say – pay no attention to any of those people! Embrace him, embrace your Savior and Kinsman Redeemer! The only evangelist you need is Jesus Christ! Give your heart to Him today – and if you already have, renew that promise you made to serve only Him, and do it right now! The end is approaching fast. It is time to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ and the unconditional salvation he brings. And next week we’ll go over part 2 of Luke 15.