Luke 15:1-32 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
- 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 that!"
- 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
- "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
- 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 away.
- 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
- 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 wicked practices.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- In theory we say God is involved, but for many of us we doubt
God's active involvement.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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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