John T. Willis

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son--Luke 15

As Jesus was moving closer to Jerusalem, "all the tax collectors and sinners" were coming to listen to Jesus. The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling, saying, "This fellow" [note: they do not acknowledge him as Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them. Jesus addresses this feeling and complaint by present three parables, all of which essentially make the same point. This appears in Luke 15. I. Introduction. Luke 15:1-2. a. People often psychologically and openly gravitate into cliques, dividing people from people. The tax collectors and sinners were affiliated, while in contrast the Pharisees and scribes were affiliated. Universities, churches, cities, counties, regions, nations easily divide over issues because of human pride or self-centeredness. 15:1. b. Sharing meals was and is a very important activity in human relationships. The Israelites regularly gathered to worship Yahweh by offering sacrifices and eating the remains of the animals. 1 Samuel 1. 1 Corinthians 8; 10; 11; Romans 14 and numerous other New Testament texts center on the importance of sharing meals among God's people. When Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, he was declaring fellowship with all people, not merely with the elite or "the righteous." 15:2. c. As Jesus introduces the three parables in Luke 15, he emphasizes the term "lost." This occurs SEVEN times in this chapter: three times in the parable of the sheep: verses 4 [twice], 6; twice in the parable of the coin: verses 8 and 9; and twice in the parable of the sons: verses 24, 32. In each case, the sheep, the coin, and the sons are lost in the sense of being separated from their natural environment. II. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. Luke 15:3-7. a. A sheep is totally dependent on the shepherd. Without the presence and care of the shepherd, the sheep would not survive. Thus, the shepherd plays the most important role. It is very difficult for a shepherd to care for more than 100 sheep. He knows each sheep by name. See John 10:3. The natural environment for the sheep is to be near the shepherd among the flock. As long as he remains there, he feels comfortable and safe. But if he wanders away from the shepherd and the flock, he becomes fearly and in danger. See Isaiah 53:6. A sheep becomes lost UNINTENTIONALLY. He becomes preoccupied with other things, wanders away, and is lost. The sheep is lost, he knows he is lost, but he does not know the way back. Therefore, it is imperative that the shepherd leave the flock and find the lost sheep. 15:3-5. b. When the shepherd brings the sheep back to the flock, he calls together his friends and neighbors, and says, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost." God our Father through Jesus Christ is the shepherd. Many human beings are lost unintentionally. This may be because of ignorance, neglect, pursuits of comparatively good things without continuing being with God. Jesus then makes this important point: "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Obviously, there is NO RIGHTEOUS PERSON, NO NOT ONE [see Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:9-20]. By saying this, Jesus is condemning the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes. 15:6-7. III. The Parable of the Lost Coin. Luke 15:8-10. a. Next, Jesus tells a parable about a woman who has ten silver coins and loses one of them. Each silver coin is precious to this woman. So she immediately lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and keeps searching carefully until she finds the lost coin. Such a coin is lost, but it certainly does not know it is lost, and therefore it could never find its way back to the owner. 15:8. b. In this parable, Jesus compares the woman with God our Father through Jesus Christ. God considers every person very valuable. God wants to use every person to carry out God's purposes. God wants to keep every person in circulation. When a person becomes lost, God is determined to find the lost. When the woman found the lost coin, he summoned his friends and neighbors and said, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost." Jesus says that in the same way, "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Again, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of loving all people, not merely the elite, to bring all people to repentance. When anyone feels, "I am righteous," Jesus condemns this very attitude. 15:9-10. IV. The Parable of the Lost Sons. Luke 15:11-32. a. Jesus says that a man had two sons. The younger son asked his father to give him his share of the property. The father did this, and the younger son traveled into a distant country and squandered his property in dissoluate living. When he had spent everything he had, a severe famine swept through the country, and he began to be in need. So he hired himself to one of the citizens of the country, who sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The younger son filled himself with the pods of the pigs; no one gave him anything. This led him to "come to himself," to wake up and see the reality of life. He is desperately hungry, and the hired hands of his father have bread enough and plenty more. So he concluded: I am going to go back to my father and confessed that I have sinned, I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired hands. The younger son was lost, he knew he was lost, and he knew the way back. All of us are in this same situation. We THINK we can depend completely on ourselves. This will NEVER succeed. We are dependent on a higher power, our God who created and sustains the universe. We are all hungry and totally dependent on God. God blesses us richly, and we are not REALLY grateful. Eventually, hopefully, we might WAKE UP and realize the reality of life. 15:11-19. b. With this motivation, the younger son headed back to his father's house. While he was still far off, his father saw him and WAS FILLED WITH COMPASSION, and RAN and put his arms around the younger son and kissed him. The younger son confessed that he had sinned against his father and thus is no longer worthy to be called his son. But the father ignored his words and said to his slaves, QUICKLY bring the best robe and put it on my son; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it so we can eat and celebrate, because my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. God's love in incredible and beyond our fondest comprehension. He is anxious to receive and forgive the worst sinners of all. We are all in the shoes of the younger son. We all deserve death, but God gives us life; we are all lost, but God finds us and redeems us and saves us. This is the wonder and glory of the gospel. 15:20-24. c. In deep contrast, the father's older son became very jealous of the younger son. The older son heard music and dancing. He summoned a slave to ask what was going on. The slave told him that the younger son had come back home, so the father killed the fatted calf because his younger son got him back safe and sound. This became the older son ANGRY and refused to join in the festivities. His father came to the older son and pleaded with him to join with the rest of the family. The older son retorted, I have worked faithfully like a slave and I never have disobeyed any of your commands. But you never gave me so much as a goat, much less the fatted calf so I could celebrate with my friends. But when THIS SON OF YOURS came back home, who devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf in his honor. The older son was self-centered, not father- or God- centered. He was lost, he knew he was not lost, and therefore he did not need to come back. Unfortunately, many "comfortable" long-time church members are right there. They fit the picture of the older son to a tee. How does the Father, our God, feel about such people? 15:25-30. d. The father responded to the older son: You are always with me, and ALL that is mine is yours. BUT it was absolutely necessary that we all celebrate and rejoice, BECAUSE THIS BROTHER OF YOURS was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found. The older son does not own his own brother as a brother, but very sarcastically calls him as "this son of yours [God's]." God will not accept such an attitude. Whether you like it or not, he IS YOUR BROTHER, and I accept him as MY SON. God's attitude is often very different from OUR attitude. It is VERY POSSIBLE that a person can be a member of the father's house and be completely out of harmony with all that goes on in God's house. 15:31-32. Numerous wonderful messages come from Luke 15. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Our Creator and Sustainer loves everyone. He cares for every person. He does anything possible to bring us back to him. Forget about what others may think about you. Be deeply concerned about what God thinks about you. Share YOUR feelings and shortcomings and needs and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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