Luke 15:1-10: “Letting the Angels Celebrate”
“Now all the tax gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ And 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? And 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 she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And 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” (Luke 15:1-10, NASB).
Any one of us who has undergone some kind of trip or given directions on how to get to a destination that is not clearly shown on a map (before the days of GPS) will tell you that even with the clearest of directions, a lot of us tend to get “turned around” or just plain “lost” when trying to locate the place we are heading. One wrong turn or exit off of a highway, and it does not take that long to realize that we had better stop hopefully somewhere that is safe, well-lit and around people, get our bearings, make a call if needed, and get back on the right route and inevitably arrive at our destination.
Being lost in an unfamiliar area is bad enough, but to be spiritually lost and without the person and direction of the LORD is even worse, and the tragedy is that many people over time have chosen to remain in that state while living, and now suffer the terrors and misery of eternal hell as a result of their defiance and rebellion against God, who offered them mercy and grace if they would have but surrendered their lives to Him. What is even more disturbing is that those of us who have been found, redeemed, and saved by the Lord Jesus Christ tend to keep silent about it for fear of being ridiculed, threatened, or rejected.
We may also believe that our lives have been marred by sin and we are not worthy to present a testimony that has been tainted by poor choices, words, or actions. Either way, the devil will use this self-imposed silence and fear to close the ears of those whom he wishes to keep in the open field or the pig pen of the world and away from the message of God’s love and care. There is also the shameful attitude of apathy we often display as confessing servants of Christ by simply thinking that all is well with one’s friends and relations, when they are just as lost as the garden-variety pagan elsewhere. May God forgive, convict, rebuke, and restore us for such lame behavior and thought.
I want to share an excerpt from a commentary I have on the gospel of Luke written by the well-known expositor and preacher Charles Swindoll. He writes in a down-to-earth manner and is easy to read and comprehend. He uses scholarship and story to present this exposition of Scripture, and it is an excellent way to present the stories that will be covered concerning the search for and retrieval of those precious possessions that were thought lost, but yet found with a celebration to follow.
“A friend in the ministry tells me he feels much more comfortable in a bar than he does at church. He is no cynic, however. He is, in fact, a seminary graduate and much involved in ministry. Just the same, he admits he finds his bar friends truthful in most respects, transparent about their flaws, generally accepting of others, confidential, generous, affable, and a lot of fun to be around. They also tend to be vulnerable, even forthright about their troubles, which many try to wash away with alcohol, and most have difficulty with long-term relationships. Consequently, my friend has found within his neighborhood watering hole a mission field ripe for the harvest. And I, for one, am glad he is there cultivating relationships, building trust, and presenting Christ as their best and only hope.
“His method and place of ministry makes some Christians uncomfortable. They would feel more assured if my friend simply passed out tracts and browbeat some of the patrons into heaven –gingerly, of course – rather than sit on a stool or play darts or cheer the local sports team. Unfortunately, these believers would find themselves in good company among Jesus’ critics, the scribes and Pharisees. They did not care for His method or choice of friends or place of ministry, either.
“The religiously proper folk called Jesus a glutton and a drunk because He socialized with tax collectors and other people who openly rejected the law of Moses. He was an irreverent revolutionary because He did not fall in line with their uptight, legalistic system. He experienced greater joy in the company of those who were shamelessly lost than with the self-appointed guardians of religious decorum. He did not just conduct holy sorties into their society; He lingered just to enjoy their company and He welcomed them into His. So, is there any surprise that sinners liked to be around Jesus?
“When challenged by His peers in the religious community, Jesus found another opportunity to teach them as well as His disciples about the true nature of ministry and God’s vision for the kingdom. With two short parables, He revealed the heart of heaven, subtly inviting His legalistic friends to loosen up, love the unlovely, learn to redeem sinners rather than condemn, and dance with the angels.” (Swindoll, Charles. Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Luke. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan Press and Charles R. Swindoll, Inc., © 2012, p.377)
When we read about the loss of the sheep and the coin, consider these truths:
- Both were precious and valuable, of high worth and importance to the owners, and could not be replaced.
- Each owner was determined to find them, no matter what it took or how long it would take to complete.
- Each owner was dedicated to keeping these lost items from harm or theft and not allow them to be taken by nefarious means.
- Each owner thought more of the value and worth of the lost possession than they did their own comfort or well-being.
- Each were not going to be satisfied until they had completed their task and achieved their goal – rescue and retrieval of the possession.
- The lost sheep and coin were not capable to rescue or find themselves. They needed help and the careful watch of a concerned and dedicated caregiver.
- The owners were willing to find what was lost and take full responsibility and accountability to do the job themselves. They did not put the blame or task on anyone else.
- They carried the lost possession back to safety personally and lovingly, showing care and concern for this precious object. The lost sheep was too weak to walk, and the coin could not insert itself into the woman’s belt.
- They both sought the welfare of the possessions they still had with them by keeping them safe and guarded. Every sheep was under care and every coin was in its place. No one was left out.
- The shepherd and the woman wanted to share their joy with friends and neighbors. Their task ended in success and celebration and was a source of joy to all who were there.
You go where the lost sheep are, and you look for the precious possession where it is least expected. Never mind what others think or say. If Jesus directs you to do a good work for Him, no matter where it might lead, grateful is the lost one who is found, and glory be to the LORD.