Saturday August 24, 2019
Parable of the Lost sheep and the lost coin:
LUK 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
The context is that Jesus should prefer the society of notorious sinners. The Pharisees could not understand that a teacher of holy life could treat these abandoned characters with grace and preference. Our Lord’s explanation is ample and thorough. It was of extreme importance that His demeanor towards sinners should be made perfectly intelligible, and that its reasonableness should be put beyond a doubt. He devotes, therefore, the three parables recorded in this chapter to this purpose.
Drawn into Luke’s historical record is a contrast between chapters 14 (dinner with Pharisee) 15 (dinners with sinners).
There is however a contrast with chapter 15 drawn in Luke’s recorded history that goes back to chapter 14 where we find Jesus dining, not with the lowly, but at the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath. A Sabbath dinner at the house of one of the leading Pharisees is a very special occasion, and to be invited is to be greatly honored.
Remember now, angels are watching and they rejoice over one sinner who repents. They rejoice when a sinful and evil heart is turned to behold and embrace God’s goodness.
At this dinner, Jesus heals a man suffering from dropsy (a disease of the heart, kidneys, or liver that causes water to collect in limbs or in the abdomen. When this happens the disease is at an advanced stage.) Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath?” Likely, some of the others in attendance frowned on this gracious work of Christ, seeing it as performing work on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ reply to their grumbling:
LUK 14:5 And He said to them, "Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?"
LUK 14:6 And they could make no reply to this.
Then the Lord witnessed a common behavior among those who attended these Sabbath dinners at the Pharisees house - a sort of sycophantic musical chairs. The people were scrambling to take the seats of honor near the head of the table where the host, the leading Pharisee sat.
Jesus said that you might be embarrassed by being asked to move to make way for a more important guest, so take the last seat and be honored that the host may ask you to move up. What we might find funny is that it seems that Jesus is actually seated in the place of honor, but not because He took it. He was invited to it.
Jesus concludes on their lust for exaltation:
LUK 14:11 "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Seated in the chair of honor at the moment, He is the perfect picture of one who humbles himself and is exalted.
Then Jesus, again sitting at the seat of honor at the behest of the Pharisee, turns to him and says:
LUK 14:12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you.
LUK 14:13 "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
LUK 14:14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Is the Pharisee regretting his idea to invite Jesus to dinner?
Someone else overhears this and chimes in:
LUK 14:15 And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
In reply to this, Jesus tells the parable of the Great Dinner. The invited guests are told that everything is ready, but they all have an excuse as to why the timing is inconvenient and they do not come. The dinner host then tells his servants to go and invite the same as Jesus told the Pharisee to invite.
LUK 14:21 Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'
LUK 14:22 "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'
LUK 14:23 "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. [likely reference to Gentiles]
LUK 14:24 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.' "
Remember, this is in response to the man who proclaimed "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
The response of Jesus is pointed towards the means by which the people will enter the kingdom of God.
Will it be for this man who made this common Jewish proclamation, much like Jews in our age say “Next year in Jerusalem,” when they celebrate the Passover meal, that the means of entering the kingdom of God will be inconvenient for him? What did this man think of the message of John the Baptist? “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
The very next scene recorded by Luke, which doesn’t necessarily have to be immediately chronological to the Pharisee’s Sabbath dinner, we find large crowds following along with Jesus. Jesus seems suddenly inspired, likely knowing that so many of them are following along with Him for the wrong reasons, and He turns and says:
LUK 14:26 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
LUK 14:27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
LUK 14:28 "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?
LUK 14:29 "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,
LUK 14:30 saying,' This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
LUK 14:31 "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
LUK 14:32 "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.
Why should I consider my future with Christ in His kingdom? It will mean that I have given up the possession of all earthly possessions and rights.
It doesn’t mean that I cannot be saved unless I give all things away, or that I must immediately give them away. It means that when the plan of God demands that I give them away, it is without hesitation that I do. It also means that I am not beholden to anything other than Christ and His kingdom.
The believer who resists this fact will live under Fatherly discipline for much of his life and he will miss out on what the life of Christ is by not coming to see it for himself. That is a huge cost. So Christ is sure to let us know - consider it.
LUK 14:33 "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
LUK 14:34 "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?
LUK 14:35 "It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
This is the capstone to the truth revealed at the Sabbath dinner. It flows from the entrance into the kingdom of God to the way of the disciple of Christ, the subject to the kingdom of God.
Christ’s disciple no longer possesses anything in this world, even to the point where his mother and father are not what he once thought they were.
He has another Father, another Lord, another birth and therefore another mother. His earthly possessions are no longer his. Everything he now possesses exists only in the kingdom of heaven.
If that is not true in his mind, he cannot be a disciple of the Lord. He can be saved but fleshly, ala 1CO 3:1-3, but he does not exist as a disciple.
Now we can turn to the three parables of chapter 15.
In contrast to the Sabbath dinner at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, which every Pharisee pines to get an invitation:
LUK 15:1 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
LUK 15:2 And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
Is this really a bad thing as they think it is?
A better point of view: “Sinners receive this righteous man and eat with him.”
Had they been able to look at it from another point of view, say from the tax-collector’s, they might have said, “Sinners receive this righteous man and eat with him.” The point being that people like these ran as far away as they could from men claiming righteousness, but to Christ they felt an attraction.
Among the lowly this was a very new thing - that a godly man should consort with them. Did they know how godly He was just yet? That He was God in the flesh? Every word from Him was purity and righteousness.
It would have been obvious to them that this Man was holy and good. They would have never heard such pure words, always gracious, giving, and righteous, and they never would have seen anyone act like Him, which manner of conduct in the greatest godliness never altered. And yet, knowing themselves, so unlike Him, so sinful, having speech that was often vile, selfish, and shallow, and actions so often of the same ungodly quality, they should have run from Him and hid themselves, but instead, they found themselves helplessly attracted to Him.
This is the perfect picture of the sinners hopelessness turned to hope - and the angels are watching.
Jesus had a heart open to all their troubles. Not blaming them or judging them, but understanding them.
PSA 103:10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
PSA 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
PSA 103:12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
PSA 103:13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
PSA 103:14 For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
He saw them through and through, and yet showed no loathing, no scorn, no astonishment, no perplexity, no weariness. Instead of meeting them with upbraiding, and showing them all they had lost, He gave them immediate entrance into His own pure, deep, efficient love, and gladdened their hearts with a sense of what they yet had in Him.
Hence, men whose seared conscience felt no other touch, who felt a ready scoff from every other source of so-called holiness, felt amazed at this new power, admitted it, and yielded to it. These are men who had long since abandoned all belief in goodness, and who delighted in showing their unbelief, which is always the result of giving up all hope. They now saw hope in Jesus and found themselves repenting of their recklessness.
Jesus exemplified by His own dealings with the common people the real society that was to come in His kingdom.
A society of men and women without division and where none are deemed worthless or unnecessary.
1CO 12:18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
1CO 12:19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
1CO 12:20 But now there are many members, but one body.
1CO 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
1CO 12:22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
1CO 12:23 and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness,
1CO 12:24 whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
1CO 12:25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
Women whose vanity and light-heartedness had led them to self-loathing and despair, and some to prostitution, an easy living but the hardest life, found that this man did not shrink from them, but spoke to them with a tenderness and a hope that were new sounds to them, so compelling was this that a sinful woman lurking in an unlikely place, a Pharisee’s house, ignoring the shame heaped upon her by the religious and finding Jesus and wept at His feet, kissed them, wiped them with her hair, and anointed them with perfume.
The disheartened, the polluted, the ruined, the degraded came to Him, because in Him they found an inexhaustible compassion.
He did not give advice, warning, and then send them away, but He received them and made them see His love for them.
Those who claimed to know the least about sin would not forgive them. The ones who had little understanding of justice, judged them and convicted the criminal to death. What many thought an injustice, to befriend them, understand them, and sympathize with them, the One who was Just did.
The One who knew the most about sin forgave them. The One who knew the most about justice pardoned them. This is what calls for explanation and this is what angels could not see in heaven.
This calls for an explanation, and Jesus gives it in three parables. Each parable illustrates a truth in God’s heart - that which is lost enacts a greater interest in God than that which He securely possesses.
As far as we can tell, elect angels cannot be lost and fallen angels are irretrievable. There is so little known here that our questions must remain unanswered or else we will be in danger of false assumptions. God clearly says that He doesn’t give help to angels but He does to men.
Satan somehow went wrong and desired his independence. He wanted to be like God and he enticed Adam and Eve to the same sin. We fell and were lost to God, but it was as if He dropped everything else, everything secure to Him, and set out in search of us. He left heaven, came to earth, became a Man, and died in our place the most horrible death, truly unimaginable, and He saved us. The elect angels watch intently in the hope of discovering God’s wisdom in all of this. They look at us to learn; but far more intently do they look upon those of us who have turned to the light of Christ and through faith in Him and His word have pursued the life of the Great Kingdom. Like these angels, we also patiently wait and watch, anticipating the unfolding of the revealing of the sons of God.
LUK 15:3 And He told them this parable, saying,
LUK 15:4 "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?
LUK 15:5 "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
LUK 15:6 "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!'
LUK 15:7 "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
LUK 15:8 "Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
LUK 15:9 "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!'
LUK 15:10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
The lost (even one) are not disregarded because of the many secured.
The sheep that is lost is not disregarded because the shepherd has many. The piece of money that has gone missing is not dismissed because there are many more secured in the jar in the cupboard. If one family member turns out ill, it is of little consolation that the rest of the family turned out well. It is after the lost that a parent’s heart consistently goes. So it is with God.
We could only conclude that in making us in His image, He has put regard for the lost within us.
The very circumstance that men have strayed from Him evokes in Him a more manifest and active solicitude in their behalf. The attitude of Christ and the Father towards sinners is reduced to the great principle, that anything which is lost and may be regained exercises our thought more and calls out a more solicitous regard than a thing of equal value which rests securely in our possession.
That which is lost occupies, for the time until it is restored, more of God’s thought and provokes more of His love than that which is secure.
Of course, we cannot imagine God to have human limitation. He relates this truth to us as a human, meaning, God doesn’t have a limited amount of thought or attention or energy as we do. The parable says that the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go and search for the one lost, but that is because a man can only be at one place at one time. God is omnipresent and never leaves any one of us.
The message of the parable is singular, as all of Christ’s parables are. There is one message here and it is to the lost. God will traverse every mountain and valley and field and neighborhood and wilderness and ocean to find one lost man and restore him.
We must be careful not to go too far by trying to draw out truths from every aspect, every person or thing in the parable. Generally, a parable has one main meaning.
The sheep and the coin are not the same, nor are they lost in the same way. The sheep nibbles at a crop of grass and then another and another as it ignorantly strays from the fold so far that it is utterly lost. So man can dabble in this or that sin, moving farther and farther into that which is evil and away from God’s goodness and truth, until he awakens from his stupor to find he is very near death. But this is not the point of the parable or else Jesus would have said so.
Contrary to the sheep, the coin does not wander of its own ignorance. A coin is misplaced or dropped unknowingly. It lies still in its hidden place until it is found. So some men are ignored. They seem lost to the world, out of circulation, and though they are stamped with the seal of God, they only know loneliness and fear. While this can be true, it is not the point of the parables. The point is simply that men are lost, and sometimes Christians stray from God for various reasons and seem lost; and that there is great joy in being found again.
Often people get so caught up in trying to find out why they are lost that they don’t anticipate being found. They get so wrapped up in the evil and darkness of their lost state that they fail to anticipate their recovery.
The first point suggested by these parables is that God suffers loss in every sinner that departs from Him.
The Pharisee only saw God’s law as rigid and God standing upon His rights and enforcing His will by compulsion and equanimity punishing and driving into permanent exile those who have strayed from Him.
God loves the sinner and his lostness is God’s loss. God loves the sinner and His love is wounded. The sinner has no love for God and no care for the wound he has caused. The silly sheep is quite satisfied with its state, while the shepherd’s heart beats fast with anxiety about its possible fate.
This is what I have witnessed to be lost in the strict Calvinist who can only see God as choosing some and rejecting others by Sovereign decision. While it is truly stated that God sovereignly elects men, it is also true that they are called by God with the gospel and whosoever may believe it by self-determination. It is true that God desires the whole world to be saved. I have seen the strict Calvinist speak and I detect in some of them a Pharisaic coldness towards the lost. I doubt that the angels would desire to look at that, for what wisdom is in it? These simple parables tell another story and the angels long to peer into it and are filled with joy when a man sees the light and believes it.
When a son strays from the love and instruction of his parents, it is the mother and father whose hair turns grey. So it is that God suffers and not the heartless sinner.
How long does it take for a child to understand the love that a parent has for him? Often it takes him having his own children. How long does it take an adult Christian to understand and believe in sacrificial love? How many set out to do it only because they are told to as opposed to the number who do so because they know and believe in its power and value and they love it?
It is hard for us to believe that God loves all men and mourns over every ill that befalls them. We might then say, “Well then why doesn’t He put a stop to it?”
There is a reason that angels have been looking into the work of God among men for millennia, and who continue to look. It is because the problem is not simple and so and answers are not simple either.
My heart cries out for Moab;
Therefore my heart intones like a harp for Moab,
Though the NASB uses a small case for the pronoun, it is clear that the Lord is the subject.
ISA 19:22 And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them.
ISA 19:23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
ISA 19:24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,
ISA 19:25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
These parables thus bring us face to face with the most significant and fertile of all realities, God’s love for us.
This love encompasses you whether you will or no. No matter how much a person rejects it, God’s love will never depart from him. It persists, because it is love. It waits patiently for requital; it humbles itself to be often slighted, often misconstrued, often refused.
It will not do for a man to persuade himself he is honorable and right-minded, if he is making no account of this expenditure of love upon him. This is not a question of a fringe doctrine that may be believed or disbelieved without effect upon a sound heart. It is not a general principle of ethics that can be debated. It is a man’s response to the love of God, to the Messiah who came looking for Him. It is a question that touches what lies deepest in our life and character.
Secondly, these parables suggest that the very fact of our being lost excites action of a specially tender kind toward us.
God doesn’t go to those who love Him in consolation of our loss. He leaves them safe and secure and comes for us. He is not an employer who can always get a fresh hand to fill an empty post. He is a Great Shepherd who knows His sheep one by one, a Father who loves His children individually. He would rather restore the most abandoned sinner than fill his space with a substitute archangel.
Love is personal and settles upon individuals.
It is not all the same to God if some other person is saved while you are not, or some other believer matured while you are not.
The shepherd who misses one of his flock does not sit down by the 99 in the pasture, but goes straight away to find it. He does not expect to meet it coming home to him, so that if he had only waited it would have found its way home. He understands that the recovery of the sheep depends solely on himself.
Some seem to suppose that God is coldly watching our passionate and almost despairing struggles to break away from evil and find our way back to a pure life, as if saying, “I will let the sinner learn the consequences of straying from Me.” But if we want to experience God’s purity, surely we have learned the consequences. People believe in the coldness of God because the journey can often seem so long, but time is a very relative thing.