Lost and Found
August 16, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:
Topic: Repentance Verse: Luke 15:1–15:10
Theme: Join God in rejoicing in the redemption of sinners.
Introduction: When I was in high school, one of the girls in our youth group was a cheerleader in a public school being chased by an unbeliever. He repeatedly asked her out and was rejected each time because she was a Christian. Finally, she told him that if he came to church, he could sit with her. So he came and “got saved.” Those of us in the youth group scoffed at this obvious ploy. We smugly sat and jeered at this young lady at her naivety, “righteously” discrediting his “conversion.” Yet, God surprised us! This guy continued to come faithfully. He genuinely knew the work of Christ and remains to this day one of the most committed and godly men that I know. Pat and I enjoy fellowship with them whenever we are able to arrange it!
Although there are numerous occasions when such professions of faith are hollow, we shouldn’t be surprised by the work of God in saving people. He is the seeker of souls, the “friend of sinners,” and the potter who does amazing things with lumps of clay. He is an attentive Redeemer whose is everywhere searching for those who respond to Him through faith: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His …” – 2 Chronicles 16:9. The penetrating Light of the truth of His compassion for sinners is said to extend to everyman – “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” – John 1:9.
Perhaps the most well-known motif describing our Lord’s compassion is that of a Shepherd. If a person knows anything about the Bible, the 23rd Psalm is most likely the verse they know – the assurances of the work of the “Good Shepherd” to provide and protect us. Jesus even refers to Himself as this “Good Shepherd” – “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” – John 10:11. In our text today, we have Jesus using a story of a shepherd refusing to discount the importance of a single sheep – and the delight He takes in “saving” that sheep from certain doom. He rebukes the smugness of hypocrites who consider others unworthy of God’s blessing and calls for all of us to join God in the joy He knows in the redemption of sinners …
I. The Disdain by the Self-Righteous – 15:1-2
A. The Attraction to Christ by Sinners – v. 1
- Luke provides us with a general description of the eagerness that people had who were considered “unworthy” of the attention of a Rabbi – “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near to Him to listen to Him.”
- The “tax collectors” [τελώνης] – were the lowest and most despised class of Jew – viewed as traitors to Israel as they worked in cahoots with the Romans to cheat Jews out of everything they could.
- “sinners” [ἁμαρτωλός] – a general term to describe those with behavior that didn’t measure up to the moral standards or expectations of the religious leadership in Israel – generally including those guilty of adultery, fornication, prostitutes, cheaters, revilers, swindlers, etc …
- To the Pharisees, these common “people of the land” were completely undesirable – unworthy of their consideration; it was almost a form of religious bullying, forcing them to get in line with them or forget it.
- However, we are told that they were “all … coming near to Him …” [ἐγγίζω] – [Pres. Active Participle] – a constant activity for the purpose of “listen[ing] to Him.”
- They couldn’t get enough of Jesus’ teaching – not because He excused their sin or “accepted them the way they are,” but because He held out hope to them.
- He reached out to them with the desire to see them redeemed – He came to seek and save them – cp. Luke 19:10.
- As a result of His initiating love for them, they would come to Him to hear Him call them to repentance – cp. Luke 5:31-32.
B. The Attitude toward Christ by the Self-Righteous – v. 2
- As they responded, Jesus would invest Himself in them – gaining the reputation of being a “friend of sinners” – cp. Matthew 9:9-13.
- As the Pharisees saw what they considered to be “fraternity” between Jesus and the “sinners,” “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
- To “grumble” [διαγογγύζω] – refers to complaining under their breath – and is typically associated with ingratitude and criticism of authority – (used by Israel in the OT when in the wilderness and dissatisfied with God’s provisions of meat and also water).
- Their attitude is exposed by Luke who quotes them saying “this man …” [οὗτος] – “this guy or fellow” – a belittling ascription – like … what a clown!
- In that they accuse Jesus of being a man who “receives sinners …” is a reference to Him actually welcoming them and hosting them.
- In their eyes, Jesus was tainted and corrupted through His association with such riff-raff of society – certainly not concerned about his personal holiness, reputation, or acceptance by the “godly.”
- They weren’t jealous of Him per se, but simply resented Jesus lack of conformity to their own perspective and priorities – priorities that demonstrated that they were completely unfamiliar with the heart of God.
- As a result, Jesus confronts them with three parables ...
What about Jesus caused sinners to flock to Him? What are the reasons you came to Him?
Why were the Pharisees critical of Jesus for spending time with “sinners”?
What examples do you have in your life of caring enough about the lost that you deliberately sought to spend time being “light” to them?
II. The Devotion of the Seeker – 15:3-4, 8
A. The Priority in the Search – vv. 3-4
- Interestingly, the text states that as a result of their grumbling, Jesus uses stories to confront them – “So He told them this parable, saying …”
- Essentially, Jesus tells them two stories – each designed to peel back their hearts to expose their error through a series of “layers:”
- A relevant story – with which they could readily identify and understand;
- An ethical focus – listeners had to review what happened and either agree it was right or not;
- A theological implication – what does it illustrate about the Kingdom of God;
- Christ – what is taught about Jesus
- In the two parables that Jesus teaches – the lost sheep and the lost coin, they replicate each other and are referred to as “this parable ....”
- He calls on them to assess whether they would do the same as the person in the parable – “What man among you …”
- He states: “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?”
- Jesus would have immediately irritated the Pharisees by asking them to identify for a shepherd – an outcast & ostracized class of people as shepherds were just above tax collectors on the social ladder.
- A sheep that had been “lost” is a most shameful thing as sheep are quite defenseless and generally helpless and it was not a matter of if the sheep would die, but when.
- As a result of the certainty of the death of the sheep, we are told that the “shepherd” “leaves the ninety-nine … and goes after the one which is lost …” – cp. 1 Samuel 17:34-35.
- The priority is clearly on the lost sheep above all other concerns and searches for the sheep “until he finds it.”
- Given that the shepherd takes the sheep “home” after finding it means that the day had ended by the time he finds it and the other sheep were already folded.
B. The Persistence in the Search – v. 8
- The shepherd in the first story demonstrates the clear priority in finding the sheep and the woman in this next story displays the same – “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?”
- This relentless search, this persistence demonstrates the value that is being placed upon the coin – of even greater proportion to the “coins” than the sheep was to the flock, but was equal to the purchase price of one sheep.
- “Coin” [δραχμή] here is a drachma which represented a full day’s wage for the common worker.
- Like the shepherd who wouldn’t give up until he had found the lost sheep, this woman would “search carefully until she finds it.”
- In both of these stories, the one doing the searching represents God who is truly the only seeker in the process of redemption – seeking those who are hopeless & defenseless (sheep) and completely lifeless as in the coin.
What does the Shepherd’s leaving the 99 sheep to look for the one that was lost tell you about the Shepherd, your Shepherd?
What does the Shepherd’s tenacity tell you about his commitment to finding the lost sheep?
Notice how conscientious the woman is in v. 8 – She goes as far as to sweep the house; how far did God have to look for you?
III. The Delight of the Sanctified – 15:5-7, 9-10
A. The Standards for the Joy – vv. 5-7
- The climax of Jesus’ story is the joy that results from the success in the search for the lost.
- The personal joy in the heart of God is at once seen through the shepherd – “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
- This is the favored image of the selfless, seeking Savior who is the Good Shepherd who rescues sinful “lost sheep” and carries them home to celebrate – “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’”
- The jubilation of success in the search pictures the heavenly scene as sinners are rescued through God’s work of saving – “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 not repentance.”
- This is the point where the Pharisees feel the weight of Jesus’ rebuke.
- The “ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” are the Pharisees who see themselves as righteous and having no need of repentance.
- They thought that they were the epitome of what delighted God – their impressive deeds of righteousness and the elaborate external displays of spirituality caused them to rejoice in themselves.
- Jesus declares that the standard of “joy in heaven” is the accomplishment of the Good Shepherd in successfully seeking and saving that which was lost and through grace, mercy, and forgiveness redeeming a “miserable sinner.”
- What stimulates the self-righteous to rejoice moves Heaven in the opposite direction as God views “all our righteous deeds … like a filthy garment …” – Isaiah 64:5.
B. The Sentiment in the Joy – vv. 9-10
- Again, we see the joy in heaven in the story of the woman who seeks for and finds the coin – “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!’”
- Again, the self-righteous legalists were unphased by sinners who repent because they viewed them as unworthy.
- Yet, Jesus states that “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- “the angels of God” represent a class of beings incapable of experiencing forgiveness as they are summarily condemned should they rebel against God – Hebrews 2:16.
- Yet, the angels are fascinated by redemption of even “one sinner who repents” – 1 Peter 1:12 (“long to get a glimpse”).
- Despite truly being above men, angels are joyful because of the accomplishment of Christ in redemption – its about Jesus’ work, not the sinner.
- Yet those who claim to know God, know His Word and ways grumble at the welcome that sinners had before the Lord Jesus Christ – John 8:42-43.
Which group best represents you – the lost sheep or the 99 who need no repentance … and why?
What motivates the angels to rejoice when none of them have experienced redemption?
Why do you think some people don’t get excited about others coming to faith in Jesus?
- People that we might think are “undesirable” are people that Jesus came to save; we are the “undesirable” ourselves.
- Jesus is a relentless Savior – seeking sinners until He “finds” them; are you lost? He is not giving up…
- The best news that we could ever hear is that a person has been saved; we must be doing all that we can to contribute to this joy.
- If angels rejoice because of Christ’s accomplishment despite not being able to experience it, how much more intense ought our joy be when people are saved.