Rejoicing and Repenting

Jesus attracted the down and out, the dreary and weary, the tax collector and sinner. And the church should do the same. The church should be a place where sinners of all stripes have a place in the pew.

The church should not reflect the country club that checks membership at the door. The church should not reflect the a-list party with an invite only guest list. The church should not reflect a peanut gallery where people are judged and criticized. No. The church should reflect Jesus Christ.

In my last post we looked at the opening verses of Luke 15. You can find that here. In that post we met the group I’m calling the grumblers and mumblers. These folks are unhappy because Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. Today we’ll see Jesus’ response to the grumbling and mumbling.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:3-10

Who is Jesus’ targeted audience here?

1) Tax Collectors and Sinners

2) Grumblers and Mumblers

Here’s how I picture this passage in my mind. Jesus is preaching the good news surrounded by sinners of all stripes. A few are specific sinners – tax collectors. Others are more general sinners – just sinner sinners. Yet, Jesus knows that the grumblers and mumblers are within earshot. Jesus knows the religious crowd has an issue with his choice of company. So Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep and a parable about a lost coin.

Jesus begins this first parable: Suppose one of you. He makes this personal. He wants deep reflection. Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? He asks the question in such a way that the only appropriate answer would be “Of course.” The sheep is found and the shepherd calls his friends up and they rejoice. You see, rejoicing should be done in the company of friends. Then Jesus drops the hammer: I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The second parable is similar. A woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Again Jesus asks the question: Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? He asks the question in such a way that the only appropriate answer would be “Of course.” The coin is found and the woman calls her friends up and they rejoice. You see, rejoicing should be done in the company of friends. Then Jesus drops the hammer: In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Two groups have heard these parables: the collected sinners that have gathered around Jesus and the religious crowd which is mumbling and grumbling over Jesus’ choice of dinner guests.

How would the two groups receive these parables differently?

1) Tax Collectors and sinners: This is the greatest news they’ve ever heard. While people despise and reject them – God loves and seeks them. God searches for them like one searches for a lost sheep. God searches for them like one searches for a lost coin. God is waiting to throw a heavenly party when they are found.

2) Grumblers and Mumblers: In my estimation they should hear these parables as a powerful rebuke. While all of heaven is waiting in expectation to throw a party for a lost sinner who is found – they are grumbling and mumbling. They are not rejoicing that sinners are in the presence of Jesus the Savior. No. They are muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” My addition: Who does Jesus think he is? Who do these sinners think they are?

The church should welcome sinners because sinners need a Savior.

The church should not be grumblers and mumblers. Rather, the church should preach the good news of Jesus Christ because God desperately wants lost sinners to be found.

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