The Book of Luke, That Which Was Lost - Lesson 181
Luke 15:1-10, Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
3And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Now in the interest of time I wonít read the story of the prodigal son but it too has a point related to the first two stories.
The first two verses of this chapter give us that which we need to properly interpret the two parables, the first concerning the lost sheep and the second concerning the lost coin, and thirdly the story about the father of two sons, one a prodigal son and the other, the eldest son.
For these three stories are related to the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes with regard to sinners and that attitude is what prompts Jesus Christ to speak in this regard.
One thing we must always remember is that Godís word is applicable to all times and that this message is not just to acknowledge how wicked the Pharisees are but by these examples we are to come face to face with our own wicked attitudes.
This passage begins with a drawing near to Jesus Christ of the publicans and sinners.
It is interesting to note that chapter 14 which we have already studied ends by the call of Jesus to hear him, to those who had ears to hear.
Immediately we are then given in the first verse of chapter 15 a drawing near of the publicans and sinners which symbolically at least gives the impression that these had ears to hear.
So this group is described in contrast to the Pharisees and scribes who looked upon Jesusí treatment of such despised people with distain and much murmuring and by this attitude show us that they did not have ears to hear.
Apparently only those who acknowledge themselves as sinners have ears to hear.
The Pharisees showed us that they do not have ears to hear by saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
You know it is one thing to receive sinners, but who would deign
to eat with them?
Now the publican was a much despised individual for he was thought of as a collaborator who earned his living by working for the hated Romans.
The word publican literally means a tax farmer, one who reaps taxes.
Thatís why he is so hated for he reaps what he does not sow.
A publican occupied a political office created by the Romans to help collect taxes in the provinces, and of course added a handsome fee to that which he collected.
Publicans were held in the lowest esteem because of their excessive profits, and according to Matt 21:32 were placed in the same social status as harlots.
The Pharisees compare themselves to the publicans and sinners to insure that they come out looking quite good in their own eyes.
So we see this contrast.
Many are coming to Jesus to hear his teaching but many are simply finding things to complain about and to murmur and to gripe.
I believe that in every event in history regardless of how joyous the occasion, this contingent of gripers, complainers and murmurers is always well represented.
It is amazing that you can express joy for some blessing that God has given you but there will be someone in the crowd that will throw cold water on your blessing so as to keep it from being too joyous.
But we see here that the publicans and the sinners drew near but it was a different matter with the Pharisees and scribes.
They were grumbling about the fact that Jesus ďreceived sinners and even lowered himself to eat with themĒ.
This association with sinners by Jesus Christ was a continuing thorn in the flesh to the Pharisees and they were miserable every time they witnessed his joy on the occasions where he even ate with them as he did in the house of Levi the publican.
Remember the question they asked of him in: Luke 5:30-32, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 31And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The answer then concerns those who have need of Jesus.
Jesus is interested in satisfying the needs of others, the Pharisees are interested in satisfying their own needs.
The sinners have need of Jesus but the Pharisees do not have need of Jesus, for in their minds they were whole and did not have a need of a physician.
What would they repent of, for they were of the elite group, the Pharisees and the scribes?
But Jesus Christ took every opportunity to unmask their covering of self-righteousness and false spirituality and his preaching of truth, which is always confrontational preaching, destined him to the cross.
So these three stories of Chapter 15 continue his confrontation with the Pharisees and the scribes, the religious hypocrites.
The first two stories, that of the lost sheep and the lost coin, reveal that the Pharisees, in some cases, had great compassion on certain ďlostĒ items, and they also greatly rejoiced when they found them.
This is a natural reaction for the longer you look for something the more valuable it becomes and the greater the pleasure there is in finding it.
The third story, known as the parable of the prodigal son, reveals the attitude of the Pharisees which is played out in the eldest son.
This attitude caused them to resent the salvation of sinners, rather than to rejoice in their salvation.
As I have already said all three of these stories are given to support Jesus Christís desire to reveal the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes with regard to sinners.
He begins this effort by directing the attention of the murmurers and complainers to their own attitudes and actions as it relates to a lost sheep.
So many times we think of this story as relating to God who will go to great effort to find and retrieve the lost.
But note who the Lord Jesus Christ is addressing this to.
4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
He is talking about a manís heart here in relation to the loss of one of his physical assets, namely one of one hundred sheep, 1% of his sheep.
So he asks them to put their own self in the story and they would find that they too would scour every hiding place, leaving no stone unturned to find that one lost sheep.
They would do so even to the point of neglecting the 99 sheep that were in the wilderness and were subject to attack by all kinds of predators.
And after such an arduous and diligent search, they too would greatly rejoice at finding the one lost sheep.
They would lift that sheep onto their shoulders and gladly carry it back to the ninety and nine, rather than punishing it or berating it all along the way.
Their rejoicing would be such as to let their friends know of their success even to the point of celebrating the finding of the one lost sheep.
Now this story is told in such a way that there would be no detractors from itís truth.
The assumption is that every one of the Pharisees would have responded to the loss and finding of one sheep just as Jesus said.
All would have left the 99 sheep in the wilderness to find the one lost sheep.
He then turns this in a spiritual direction.
The question is inferred: How can you be so concerned about one of 100 sheep and so little concerned about lost men.
What kind of a heart is so disturbed by the loss of an animal but so little affected by those who are on their way to a Godless Hell?
Think of this with regard to your little house pet, perhaps your family dog or your family cat.
What a great effort we engage in to retrieve them when they are lost.
Do we have the same spirit reaching out to lost men?
Look at the joy you have when you bring home that animal that was lost.
Should you not have equal or better joy in the bringing in of lost men and lost women.
And then he says in this regard: I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Now having given one example of care for a lost asset Jesus Christ provides another along the same line.
8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Here the Lord tells us of a woman who has lost 10% of her silver.
The loss of the family finances deeply affects the woman and this excites her to turn the house up-side down to find the piece of silver.
She does not limit herself to a hasty look but lights a lamp to aid in looking in every nook and cranny until she finds the coin.
She will stop at nothing to find that coin; every measure will be taken.
My experience is that women are good at looking for lost things.
There is always a sock that disappears and needs reuniting with its mate.
There is always something in the refrigerator that only she knows its location.
They usually have a stick-to-it-tive-ness that men lack.
If I want to find something I usually ask my wife to look and she somehow, with much prayer, finds it.
Now the woman of this story not only looks for the coin with a lamp but she sweeps every square foot of the floor until she finds it.
She has determined that the coin will not go unfound!
And when the coin is found, she, like the sheep rancher, rejoices greatly at finding it and rejoices with her neighbors at such good fortune.
Once again, it is assumed by our Lord that all in His audience are nodding their heads in agreement.
They too would search for the lost coin, just as they would rejoice in finding it.
And again Jesus Christ turns this in a spiritual direction.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
So here Jesus Christ tells his listeners that even the angels are interested in a sinner turning from his way to Godís way.
They know that it is the plan and purpose of God to save men, on the basis of the shed blood of the Son of God.
Now the lost sheep parable and the lost coin parable were given so that these men could see themselves as men who were concerned about the lost.
But they were concerned about lost sheep and lost coins.
But Jesus Christ is concerned about lost men and lost women.
Jesus Christ puts every thing in perspective.
He forces us to see things in a spiritual way.
We are naturally concerned with that which enhances our position, our assets.
He wants us to be concerned about that which enhances Godís kingdom, the salvation of sinners who his Son will die for.
So we are given by Jesus Christ two stories which are usually thought of as primarily intended as a picture of Godís seeking after lost men but in reality they are pictures of men seeking after lost things.
They are not given to describe Godís heart for the lost but they are given to describe manís heart for the lost.
Manís heart for the lost only applies to those assets that enhance his position.
Jesus begins the first parable with the words, ďWhat man of you having a hundred sheep.
Jesus was not describing Godís response to that which is lost, but their own.
The Pharisees could easily agree that if they lost one sheep or one coin, they would diligently seek to find it, and they would greatly rejoice in finding it.
So these two parables speak of menís zeal in searching for and finding lost possessions, not lost people.
The Pharisees were ďlovers of moneyĒ (Luke 16:14), and it is therefore not hard to see how they would leave 99 sheep to seek one lost sheep, or to turn the house upside‑down to find one lost coin.
The Pharisees were like Jesus in that they did have compassion, as can be seen in the tenderness of the shepherd toward the lost sheep, which he placed over his shoulders.
The Pharisees cared very much for that which was lost, and they rejoiced greatly concerning the recovery of what was lost.
The critical difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is that they cared about possessions, while Jesus cared about people.
The Pharisees were hypocrites.
They grumbled that Jesus could gladly receive back repentant sinners and rejoice in their salvation, yet they would diligently search for lost possessions and celebrate when they found them.
The first two parables, then, expose the misplaced compassion of the Pharisees.
They also contrast the ďlove for that which was lostĒ in the Pharisees with that of the Lord Jesus.
The Pharisees being natural men, were ďout of syncĒ with heaven.
Why were they unwilling to seek to save sinners and unable to rejoice at their repentance?
Why were they unwilling to associate with them?
This is what the third parable will tell us.
The third parable depicts the loving and forgiving heart of God (in the father), the repentance of the sinner (in the younger brother), and the sullen joylessness of the Pharisees (in the older brother).