Scripture: Luke 15:1-10 1 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."
The Pharisees had strict regulations about how they were to keep away from sinners, lest they incur ritual defilement.
They were not to entrust money to them or have any business dealings with them, nor trust them with a secret, nor entrust orphans to their care, nor accompany them on a journey, nor give their daughter in marriage to any of their sons, nor invite them as guests or be their guests.
They were shocked with the way in which Jesus freely received sinners and ate with them. Sinners, nonetheless, were drawn to Jesus to hear him speak about the mercy of God. Jesus characteristically answered the Pharisees' charge with a parable or lesson drawn from everyday life.
What does Jesus' story about a lost sheep and a lost coin tell us about God and his kingdom? 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. 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. Both the shepherd and the housewife "search until what they have lost is found." Their persistence pays off.
They both instinctively share their joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one another's sorrows and joys.
What was new in Jesus' teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for.
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?