Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for new life in Christ. Praise God that, while we were yet sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins, by grace, he made us alive in Christ. Ephesians 2:5,6.
Confess the sin of not thanking God enough for his seeking out and saving of us. Pray that you will grow in the joy of your salvation and thanksgiving to God for it.
Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Luke 15:1-7
Seeking the Lost
V1. Drawing near to hear.
Luke ended the last chapter with the words of Jesus, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." That was said in relation to the necessity for all-in living with and for Jesus. Luke now opens this chapter with a picture of people drawing near to hear Jesus and not for entertainment's sake. The clear implication is that these people really want to hear what he has to say. And who are these people? They are the tax collectors and sinners.
As we have considered before, the tax collectors were viewed as traitors who worked for the subjugating Roman Empire. Jewish men, collecting taxes and customs from hardworking Jewish people, to finance the occupation of Jewish land by Roman oppressors, and lining their own pockets in the process. Synagogues would not receive their alms, and it was widely accepted that you didn't have to keep your word when dealing with a tax collector. Having a tax collector in the family was seen as something the family should be ashamed of.
The “sinners” were either those who lived off various forms of immoral earnings or had occupations that the religious orders regarded as being incompatible with the Law, if not breaking it. The Pharisee, the scribe, the rabbi didn't engage, let alone deliberately associate with such people. It just did not happen. In fact, the religious elite would go to great lengths to avoid any contact with these men and women. The fact that Jesus did the opposite deeply disturbed the Pharisees and scribes. Jesus' behaviour scandalized them. What he was doing in eating with such people was beyond unacceptable, and they weren't slow about making their feelings known.
Before moving to see how Jesus handles them, it is interesting that, despite his perfection, Jesus was like a magnet to the openly godless. It is peculiar, isn't it? You would have thought that this underclass would have stayed clear of him. But the reason for their intense interest is quite straightforward; Jesus cared for them as people and spoke the truth to them. The openly godless, though surrounded by people, tend to live lonely lives, and many of those within their 'community' are, like themselves, perpetual liars. So, while it is surprising in one sense that these folks kept being drawn to Jesus, in another, it's not. Some of the most honest and direct conversations I had during my ministry in Scotland were with men who had addictions issues and lived in the streets around our home. I'm not implying I had a great 'ministry' among them. I am just saying that I enjoyed stopping in the street and talking with them, and from the comments I received from relatives after they would die, the men had enjoyed those conversations too.
Jesus doesn't address the grumblers as he normally does, i.e., by asking them a confrontational question directly related to what they are thinking. On those occasions, he intended to show them their error and condemn them forcefully. Yes, he begins by asking them a question, but it is to get them to appreciate what he is doing. He's not rattling their pride, but he is taking this as an opportunity to speak to their hearts in a way that will draw them in.
We seldom learn by just being told what to do. People who just do what they are told because they like or have some attachment with the person doing the telling, generally don't learn, they just comply. This is okay, as long as the telling person isn't replaced by someone who tells them to do something different. If that happens, then the lack of learning will quickly be revealed, and the outcome is seldom good. Learning is a process that requires thought and heart engagement, and that takes time. Jesus understood that, which is why he taught so much by asking questions.
The question Jesus asks is simple: 'which of them, if they had a hundred sheep and lost one, would not leave the ninety-nine and search for the lost?’ In posing this question, Jesus knows how they will respond, even though probably none of them owned one sheep, let alone one hundred. And it is on the back of that unspoken response that he will lead them to see that what he is doing is more than just acceptable, it is wonderful. Having said that, there is a sense, though, in which the question itself makes the case, but Jesus goes on to affirm it.
Having searched for and found the one lost sheep, the man places it on his shoulders, a natural way to carry a sheep a distance, and returns home rejoicing, filled with joy. That would be the experience of the Pharisee or the scribe in such a situation. The intensity of the joy is seen in what the man does when he gets back home. It's not merely a case of putting the creature back with the flock and returning to the regular duties of the day. No, everything stops, and he calls together his friends and neighbours to share the rejoicing with him. The joy over finding the lost sheep is something to be experienced by many. It is a desire that stands in stark contrast to the previous grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes. Of course, that wouldn't really happen, the shepherd would undoubtedly be pleased with finding a lost sheep, but the idea of him throwing a party is stretching the realms of probability. But, he stretches those realms because the reality of what he is addressing, the seeking and finding of the lost sinner, compels the parable's imagery to be taken beyond the ordinary.
The parable complete, Jesus, with the voice of authority seen in the words "I tell you", states the reality that is illustrated – "joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." The magnitude of the sin is not stated; what is important is the fact that the grace of repentance has been received and owned. What a wonderful reality. Each time a person is converted, there is rejoicing in heaven. Why? Because the finished work of Christ on the cross has been applied to another soul, with all the eternal implications that incorporates for the person.
What of the ninety-nine? There is also rejoicing in heaven for them, but it is just that there is "more joy" over the one who had strayed. The ninety-nine are "righteous persons who need no repentance", because they have already received repentance and are therefore declared to be righteous before God.
It is wonderful to witness the salvation of a man or woman who has strayed from the gospel. And it's not always straying that involves open rebellion in the world. Many stray in plain sight, that is, within the body of the visible church. I experienced much rejoicing in the early years of my ministry when several people who had been members of the church for some decades were converted. I believe that the same has happened here in Ottawa, in the life of at least one person. May the Lord use and bless us as we seek to go out and seek the lost.
Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 72C - Link to the words. Link to it being sung.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
Luke 14:11 - "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Truth for the Mind and Heart
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 105 - What do we pray for in the fifth request?
Answer - In the fifth request (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors) we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; and we are encouraged to ask this because, by his grace, we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that the Lord Jesus Christ is daily seeking out the lost and bringing them to repentance and faith, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Pray that he would give us the heart to join him in this seeking.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC