Joy in Finding
Joy in Finding (Luke 15:1-10)
What is God like? Once you accept the existence of God, that becomes life's biggest question. The Greek philosophers thought He was apathetic. The Romans thought He was an overblown person with outsized human failures. Some followers of Moses saw Him as the great Lawgiver, full of demand. Nowhere did Jesus more clearly answer the question than Luke 15. Jesus gives three pictures of God.
God seeks that which is lost. God's greatest joy is in finding that which is lost. If we are like God, we do the same.
Jesus Does Attract the Lost
There are two very different reactions to the same Jesus. The irreligious are drawn to Him and the outwardly religious are put off by Him.
Jesus attracts the irreligious to Himself. The central characteristic of Jesus' ministry was His appeal to the abhorrent, repulsive, despised, and branded of His age. They came to Him continually. More and more of them came, one group after the next. These were not Jesus "groupies" seeking to be close to a great man. He really had an affinity for the irreligious and they felt it in their hearts. In this regard Jesus stands unique among all biblical figures. The lost wanted to be near Him. Do they want to be near you and me?
Jesus repels the merely religious from Himself. The Pharisees were a 6,000 member layman's league dedicated to outward piety and purity. When they say Jesus' attraction of the irreligious they continually and persistently muttered their disgust. In strongly derisive terms they judged Jesus by the company He kept. He responded that He was guilty as accused.
In these parables our Lord wants us to understand that God is like this, Jesus is like this, and those who follow Him should be like this. Our God seeks and joyfully recovers that which is lost.
We Need to Affirm the Lostness of Our City
Jesus did not here denounce His detractors with anger. He reasoned with them from their own experience. Granted that they would leave the flock to find one lost sheep, should not He take extraordinary measures to find one lost person? He also helps us understand what it means to be lost.
Some are lost through needlessness. A sheep does not willfully separate from the flock. Through helplessness and mere stupidity a sheep does get separated from the flock. In the evening the shepherd counts the sheep before enclosing them for the night. If the shepherd misses one, he will go to search for it. Even though it is only one out of one hundred, the shepherd will seek the sheep. God seeks us when we are lost due to our own stupidity or helplessness.
Some are lost through carelessness. Jesus intends a contrast here. The contrast is between a man seeking and a woman, outdoors and indoors, a living sheep and an inanimate coin. A coin is lost through no fault of its own but through the carelessness of another. The coin in question was part of a headdress worn by Hebrew woman. All was marred because the coin was gone. The coin was lost through the carelessness of the women. When we are lost through the carelessness of others, God still seeks us.
Both parables point out the value to God of the one. Whether one out of one hundred or one out of ten, the individual does matter. God seeks the one that is lost. So should we.
We Need to Search for the Lost in Our City
Rescue requires thoroughness. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to look through the night for the one. Imagination can see him seeking through the crags and dunes of the Judean wilderness. In her peasant's house the woman lights a candle and sweeps the dark floor listening for the tinkle of the precious coin. None of this was convenient. The church that loves Jesus does not live for convenience. It raises dust and difficulty to look for that which is lost.
Rescue requires tenderness. The shepherd carries the sheep home on his shoulders. Early Christian art concentrated on this theme. A lost sheep often will refuse to stand or walk. The shepherd did not drive or even lead the sheep. He carried the sheep. God is like that with the lost, and so should we be.
Rescue results in joyfulness. This is the primary emphasis of these twin parables. There is great joy in the finding. There is shared joy in the finding. Both the shepherd and the woman call a feast to share the joy. There is no joy like the joy of going with God after the lost. Jesus drops the picture of the parables and speaks of heavenly reality as He Himself knows it to be from experience. Joy in the presence of angels includes God and all the saints in heaven. The eternal world does not rejoice at the secular achievements of man. The eternal world does not even exult in many of the activities of the church. But a single lost person found results in triumphant joy in the world of the eternal.
With whom do you identify in these stories? Are you the lost coin or sheep? Then let God find you. Are you the shepherd or the woman, seeking the lost as God seeks them? Are you the Pharisee grumbling because there is an emphasis on evangelism and going after specific lost individuals? This parable is a mirror, and we can all see ourselves in it somewhere.