Scripture: Luke 15:1-321 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 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.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 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.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' 31 And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
Meditation: If you lost something of great value and importance to you wouldn't your search for it until you found it? The joy of finding a lost loved one, a precious member of your fold, and your hard earned savings to feed your hungry family are vivid illustrations which Jesus uses to describe what God's kingdom is like. God the Father does not rejoice in the loss of anyone. He earnestly searches for the lost until they are restored and joyfully united with the whole community of heaven. Jesus told these three parables right after the scribes and Pharisees, the religious elite among the Jews, expressed disapproval with Jesus' close contact with people of bad reputation.
Finding and restoring what has been lost
Why were many tax collectors and sinners drawn to Jesus? Jesus offered them forgiveness, mercy, and healing and the promise of full restoration with God the Father and the whole community of heaven - God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. When the Pharisees began to question Jesus' motive and practice of associating with sinners of ill-repute, Jesus responds by giving them a three-fold lesson in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15:4-32).
What is the point of Jesus' story about a lost sheep and a lost
coin? In Jesus' time shepherds normally counted their sheep at the
end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by
their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly
become bewildered and even neurotic, and become easy prey for
wolves and lions. The shepherd's grief and anxiety is turned to
joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold.
The housewife who lost a coin faced something of an economic
disaster, since the value of the coin would be equivalent to her
husband's daily wage. What would she say to her husband when he
returned home from work? They were poor and would suffer greatly
because of the loss. Her grief and anxiety turn to joy when she
finds the coin that she had misplaced.
Restoring the lost to the community of faith
Both the shepherd and the housewife "search until what they have lost is found." Their perseverance pays off. They both instinctively share their joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one anothers' sorrows and joys. What was new in Jesus' teaching was the insistence that lost sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for their separation from God and the community of the just. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?
The prodigal could not return to the garden of innocence, but he
was welcomed and reinstated as a beloved son. The errant son's
dramatic change from grief and guilt to forgiveness and
restoration express in picture-language the resurrection from the
dead and a rebirth to new abundant life with God the Father
through his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Contempt and pride lead to division - mercy and forgiveness
restores and unites
The parable of the prodigal son also contrasts mercy and forgiveness with their opposites - an unwillingness to forgive and to be reconciled. The father who had been wronged, was forgiving and merciful towards the younger son who recognized his need for forgiveness. But the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving and refused to be reconciled with his brother. His refusal to forgive turns into contempt and pride. And his resentment leads to his isolation and estrangement from the community of forgiven sinners.
In this parable Jesus gives us a vivid picture of God the Father
and what his character and attitude towards us is like. God is
truly generous, kind, and forgiving towards us. He does not lose
hope or give up when we stray from him and his commandments. He
searches our hearts to show us where true love and mercy can be
found and he lead us back to the way of everlasting joy and
happiness (Psalm 139:1, 23-24). God the Father always rejoices in
searching out those who have strayed and he welcomes them home
with open arms. Do you know the joy of your heavenly Father who
welcomes you home to his kingdom of everlasting righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit?
"Lord Jesus, may your light dispel the darkness of sin, deception, and ignorance, so that all who are lost or confused may find their way to the Father's home and be united with him in a bond of peace and friendship. Transform my heart with your merciful love that I may point many others to the good news of pardon, peace, and new life which you offer to all who trust in you, the Good Shepherd and Savior of the world."
Psalm 51:1-2,10-11,15,171 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
"'He fell on his neck and kissed him.' This is how the father judges and corrects his wayward son and gives him not beatings but kisses. The power of love overlooked the transgressions. The father redeemed the sins of his son by his kiss, and covered them by his embrace, in order not to expose the crimes or humiliate the son. The father so healed the son's wounds as not to leave a scar or blemish upon him. 'Blessed are they,' says Scripture 'whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered' (Romans 4:7)." (excerpt from SERMON 3)[Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 AD, was a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena in the 5th century]
Scripture quotations from Common
Bible: Revised Standard Version of the
Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition
of the Revised Standard Version of the
Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of
Christian Education of the National Council
of the Churches of Christ in the United
States of America. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Citation references
for quotes from the writings of the early
church fathers can be found here.
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