For an introduction to this series, click here.
March 19, 2007
If you've been in church for any length of time, you know that practically everything that can be said has been said about this chapter. There are few more popular chapters in the Bible. This one ranks right up there with Psalm 23, John 3 and the Sermon on the Mount. There are three parables from Jesus here, and four things that are lost. Read on if you are not sure what I'm talking about.
First of all, let's set the scene. Most people skip the first three verses of this chapter, so let's look at those: "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable:" (15:1-3, ESV)
Now we see the context. The scribes and Pharisees, who apparently had people following Jesus all the time, trying to catch Him in something He said or did, were griping about Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. I wrote last week about how the Jews took seriously the people that they ate with.
Jesus responds with the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons. The point of the lost sheep is missed on most people (at least my view of it, maybe I'm the one who is missing the point). The point is no shepherd in his right mind would risk 99 sheep to get one back. And certainly if he found the one lost sheep, he would not call his neighbors to celebrate. That's like celebrating successfully adding one and one and coming up with two. But that is how God feels about when a lost person comes home to Him. He is thrilled to welcome them home, certainly more thrilled than the Pharisees who could only look at their neighbors' state in life and not see their hearts.
The lost coin, of course is another example. I may be reading this wrong, but once again you don't call your friends together because you found a piece of money you lost, even if it is worth quite a bit. Most people would be embarrassed by the fact they lost it in the first place and would not want to draw attention to it. But not this woman, and not God.
And then at last we have the parable of the lost sons. I know, this parable has been known for centuries as the prodigal son, but which son is really lost by the time the parable is over? The prodigal who repents and comes home, or the one who is spiteful toward his father for the way he shamelessly celebrates his wayward son's return? It's a shame that most people focus on the prodigal, because Jesus, and you can bet the Pharisees, were focused on the older brother. This was a direct shot at the Pharisees for their attitude they were displaying in the first three verses. I guess we can identify more with the prodigal, but that's only because we don't want to look at the older son, because I think if we look too close, we might find ourselves looking right in the mirror at ourselves if we aren't careful.