What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
Jesus often spoke in parables. Earthly stories with deep heavenly meanings. There are those in the world who are like lost sheep. Those who need to be restored back to the fold. As Jesus told these few parables, He spoke in the presence of the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees. They, like many religious leaders today, thought they had the monopoly on the grace of God and believed their place was secure in heaven. But Jesus came to challenge their self-righteous beliefs and call the ones who felt they had been forgotten. The parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin.
My Sheep, My People Of you with wayward hearts And casual uncaring feet You who take all the best grass More than you need to eat. Just for a moment I ask you Would you stop and think You who drink the clear water And muddy what you do not drink. There is another harvest Besides your own to reap Stop trampling down the grass That’s for my other sheep. I make a promise to you My flock I will not let you be ill-treated anymore I will separate the good from the bad I will make a King for the poor. I will make a covenant with you Security will be guaranteed Dangerous animals will flee from the land You, My sheep will have all you need. I will bless you My people I will shower on you refreshing rain Trees will bear fruit, fields will produce crops You will live in safety again. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin
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 neighbours 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.
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 neighbours 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.
Henry says – In this chapter, the scribes and Pharisees were murmuring at the grace of Christ. They did not like the fact that He showed favour to sinners. These two parables and the parable of the lost son provided a full discovery of that grace. A grace which shows that God has no pleasure in the death and ruin of sinners. But He has great pleasure in their return and repentance. The Pharisees took offence at Christ for conversing with heathens and preaching His gospel to them, Luke 15:1-2.
Christ shows there is no more pleasing and acceptable service done to God than in the bringing of the heathen to repentance. Sinners gave great attention to Christ’s ministry for Great multitudes of Jews went with Him (Luke 14:25). The Pharisees had such an assurance of their admission into the kingdom of God that He found it necessary to shake their vain hopes.
They drew near to Him
Here multitudes of sinners drew near to Him, with a humble modest fear of being rejected by Him. Yet to them He found it necessary to give encouragement, especially because there were some haughty people who frowned upon them. Some of the tax collectors who collected the tribute paid to the Romans, were all given a bad name, because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office.
They drew near to him, being afraid of drawing any nearer than to just come within hearing distance. They drew near to Him, not, as some did, to solicit for cures, but to hear His excellent teaching. In all our approaches to Christ we must have this to our aim, to hear Him and the instructions He gives us, and His answers to our prayers.
Yet the scribes and Pharisees took offence. They murmured, and reproached our Lord Jesus: This man receives sinners, and eats with them, Luke 15:2. They were angry that tax collectors and sinners were being given the means of grace. Jesus called on them to repent and encouraged them to hope for pardon upon repentance. For they themselves looked upon their case as desperate, and thought that they did not have the privilege of repenting and being pardoned.
Christ justified Himself by showing that the worse the sinner, the more glory would redound to God, and the more joy there would be in heaven if they repented. He illustrates this through two parables, the explanation of which both are the same.
He continues His care of the sheep
The parable of the sheep and the lost coin was designed to show the care God takes for the preservation of His people. It is designed to show the pleasure God takes in the conversion of sinners and gives the reason why we should rejoice in it. When a sinner goes on in sinful ways he is like a sheep that has gone astray. He is lost to God who does not have the honour and service He ought to have from him. Lost is he to the flock which does not have communion with him. He is also lost to himself not knowing where he is, wandering endlessly. Here he is continually exposed to the beasts of prey and subject to frights and terrors. He is out from under the shepherd’s care and wanting the green pastures. Yet cannot find the way back to the fold.
The God of heaven takes great care of the poor, wandering sinner. He continues His care of the sheep who did not go astray for they are safe. But there is a particular care to be taken of this lost sheep. Though He has a hundred sheep, a considerable flock, yet He will not lose that one. He goes after it and shows an abundance of care in finding it. He follows it, enquiring after it, and looks around for it, until He finds it.
God follows backsliding sinners with the calls of His Word and the strivings of His Spirit, until at last they think of returning. God goes to great lengths to bring it home. Though He finds it weary, and perhaps worried and worn out with its wanderings yet He does not leave it to perish. Instead, He lays it on His shoulders, and with a great deal of tenderness and labour, brings it to the fold.
God sends His Son to seek and save that which was lost
This is very applicable to the great work of our redemption. Mankind has gone astray, (Isa 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way). Yet God sends His Son to seek and save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. Christ is said to gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom. This denotes His pity and tenderness towards poor sinners. Here He is said to bear them upon His shoulders, which denotes the power with which He supports and bears them up. They can never perish whom He carries upon His shoulders.
God takes great pleasure in repenting, returning sinners. He lays them on His shoulders rejoicing and the joy is all the greater because He began to lose hope of finding him. He calls his friends and neighbours, the shepherds who keep their flocks around him, saying, Rejoice with me. God calls it His sheep, though astray and a wandering sheep. He has a right to it (all souls are Mine), and He will claim His own and therefore He looks after it Himself. I have found it. He did not send a servant, but His own Son, the great and good Shepherd, who will find what He is seeking, and will be found by those who are not seeking Him.
In the parable of the lost piece of silver the one who has lost is supposed to be a woman. She has ten pieces of silver, and loses one of them. She has lost a piece of silver, drachmen—the fourth part of a shekel. The soul is silver, of intrinsic worth. This silver was lost in the dirt like a soul plunged in the world, and overwhelmed with the love and care of it. It is like a piece of money in the dirt.
The woman lights a candle, to look behind the door, under the table, and in every corner of the house. She sweeps the house and seeks diligently until she finds it. This represents the various means and methods God makes use of to bring lost souls home to Himself. He has lighted the candle of the gospel, not to show Himself the way to us, but to show us the way to Him. To bring us to ourselves He has swept the house by the convictions of the Word. He seeks diligently to bring lost souls to Himself.
While there is life, there is hope
There is a great deal of joy in finding it: Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost, Luke 15:9. Those who rejoice desire that others should rejoice with them. Those who are joyful would have others be joyful with them. She was glad that she had found the piece of money even if she spends it entertaining those whom she called to make merry with her. Upon finding it she exclaimed – heureka, heureka—I have found, I have found, it is the language of joy.
The explanation of these two parables results in the same. (Luke 15:7, 10): There is joy in heaven, joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner who repents. Some of the tax collectors and sinners repented (and, if but one of them did repent, Christ would reckon it worth His while).
The repentance and conversion of sinners on earth are a matter of joy and rejoicing in heaven. It is possible that the greatest sinners may be brought to repentance. While there is life, there is hope. The worst of them are not to be despaired of for if they repent and turn they shall find mercy. Yet even more God will delight to show them mercy. There is always joy in heaven. God rejoices in all His works, but particularly in the works of His grace. He rejoices in doing good to repentant sinners, with His whole heart and His whole soul.
They become ministering spirits to them for their good
The good angels are glad that mercy is shown to the sinner. Those of their own nature who sinned are left to perish, and no mercy is shown to them. Yet those sinners who repent, who have been so vile, are upon their repentance taken into communion with them. Shortly they are to be made like them and equal to them. The conversion of sinners is the joy of angels, and they gladly become ministering spirits to them for their good. The redemption of mankind was a matter of joy in the presence of the angels and they sung, Glory to God in the highest, Luke 2:14.
There is more joy over one sinner who repents, and turns from a course of life that had been notoriously vile and vicious, than there is over ninety-nine just persons, who need no repentance. There was more joy over the conversion of the sinners who now heard Christ preach. More than for all the praises and devotions, and all the ‘God I thank thee’, of the Pharisees, and the self-justifying Jews. Those who thought they needed no repentance.
But Christ tells them that it was quite otherwise. God is more pleased with, the penitent broken heart of one of those despised sinners than all the long prayers which the Pharisees made. They could not see anything amiss in themselves. God has more joy for the conversion of one great sinner than for the regular conversion of one who had always conducted himself decently and well. Even though he does not need such a universal change of life as those great sinners need.
It is best not to go astray but the grace of God, in the power of that grace, is more manifested in the reducing of great sinners than in the conducting of those who never went astray. And many times those who have been great sinners before their conversion prove more zealously good after, of which the Apostle Paul is an instance. Therefore in him God was greatly glorified, Gal. 1:24. They to whom much is forgiven, will love much.
We are moved with a greater joy for the recovery of what we have lost, than for the continuance of what we have always enjoyed. Health out of sickness, rather than health without sickness. It is as life from the dead. A constant course of religion may in itself be more valuable, and yet a sudden return from an evil course and way of sin may yield far more joy.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. May my life is exemplified as one who draws people to You. For I know that there is no more pleasing and acceptable service done to You. Thank You that You care for me and that You keep me safe. I Thank You that You sent Your Son to seek and save that which was lost. Thank You that those who are carried on Your shoulders can never perish. You sent Your own Son, the great and good Shepherd, who will find what He is seeking. May He be even found by those who are not seeking Him.
Wherever I have gone astray bring me to myself by the convictions of the Word. For I know that while there is life, there is hope. May I always hang onto the hope that the worst of sinners should not be despaired of. For if they repent and turn they shall find mercy. Thank You that angels gladly become ministering spirits to us for our good. May I never go astray from Your will and Your purpose for me. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.