We have all had the experience of looking for a lost item. A number of years ago, my wife’s purse disappeared. She was pretty sure she left it in a shopping cart at Wal-Mart. We called and stopped by the customer service desk, but no, they hadn’t seen it. As a family, we prayed about it, especially the children. But it didn’t turn up. Several days later, I decided to check Wal-Mart’s lost and found again. This time, I tried to convince the lady behind the counter that we were sure it was left in a shopping cart. A few minutes later, she returned, holding the lost purse. What an answer to prayer that was for our children.
Jesus looks for things too!
I would like to look at Luke 15. Jesus knows what it is like to look for the lost. He gave a group of illustrations to answer an accusation.
1Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Luke begins this part of the story telling us that a certain group of people were becoming interested in what Jesus had to say. In fact, all of the tax collectors (publicans) and sinners were coming to Jesus. The socially conservative leaders were complaining as a group about “this man” warmly accepting and eating with these social outcasts. No respectable rabbi would ever do that. I think a modern day example would be drug dealers, simply a group of people that “good, upstanding citizens” would not be willing to associate with and especially not “eat” with them.
The Herdsman, the Pasture, and the Sheep.
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
A shepherd has lost one sheep, hardly news because he had one hundred of them but nonetheless a loss. He takes risks to recover that one sheep. The language here suggests that the shepherd somewhat neglected the ninety-nine to go searching for the one lost sheep. When he finds the sheep, he rejoices. He does not punish and grumble about how troublesome sheep can be, but rather he tells everyone about his good fortune! He cannot contain his joy.
In this same upside-down way, there is more rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of one sinner than over the ninety-nine who do not need to repent. You could read into this that Jesus is implying when one tax collector repents, it causes more rejoicing than the ninety-nine righteous Pharisees and scribes who believe they are doing everything right.
Matthew also records this parable in chapter eighteen with a different context but a similar meaning. He likens the lost sheep to the “little ones” as he illustrates who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God by lifting up a child.
The Housewife, the House, and the Treasure.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
This woman has ten silver coins, or as Luke records, ten drachmas. This is the Greek coin that was about the same weight as a Roman denarius, also known as a “day’s wages” for a laborer. In our terms, she had a two-week paycheck and lost a tenth of it. According to Ray Vander Laan, the typical floor of a house would have been “paved” with stones. There were lots of little cracks and crevices for things such as small coins to fall down in.
This lady then lights a lamp and sweeps the house diligently, looking for this coin that got away. I could imagine she let out a shriek or loudly exclaimed when she found it.
What about you? Can you hear the angels when someone repents? Do you get a sense of excitement when you see or hear that someone came “home” to the Father?
There’s a subtle call to help search for what is lost — to join heaven in celebrating the joy of one sinner repenting.
To be continued.
– Tony High
To listen to this full sermon preached at Bradford Mennonite Church, click here.