Luke 15:1-2 (NIV) 1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
On verses 1-2: Jesus’ biggest critics, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, taught that to be truly holy and pleasing to God, you must separate yourself from people who were known to be habitual sinners. That is why the Pharisees and teachers of the law found it puzzling, disgusting and also a basis for accusing Jesus when they saw that Jesus was hanging out with the very people that the Pharisees and teachers of the law shunned. Knowing what the Pharisees and teachers of the law were thinking, Jesus will tell, in the verses that follow, some of his most famous parables to show why He the Son of God welcomes sinners and eats with them.
Luke 15:3-4 (NIV) 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
On verses 3-4: If like me you’ve never shepherded actual sheep (i.e. animals) before, perhaps you too are wondering why a shepherd would leave 99 of his sheep in the open country just to go after one lost sheep. According to some scholars, back in Jesus’ time, it was common at night for shepherds to bring their flocks into one common area and for them to watch this combined flock together (as alluded to in Luke 2:8). In the morning each shepherd would then use a special call to gather their own flock back together (as alluded to in John 10:3-5). If shepherds watched their flocks together, this would free up one shepherd to go after one lost sheep without leaving the rest of the flock defenseless. For a shepherd, one lost sheep meant lost income (whether the shepherd owned the sheep himself or was taking care of that sheep for someone else). Not just that, a shepherd caring for a flock of 100 could very well be emotionally attached to his sheep and feel responsible for it. Thus a shepherd had much incentive to go after one lost sheep and would celebrate with his friends and neighbours when that lost sheep was found.
Luke 15:5-7 (NIV) 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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.
On verses 5-7: In John 10 Jesus describes himself as our good shepherd and us as his sheep. When we are lost and far from our shepherd, Jesus goes out into the wilderness to find us and searches for us relentlessly so as to bring us back home. He will not rest until he finds you. And when Jesus finds you, his heart is overjoyed and all of heaven along with him. In Jesus’, eyes, you are precious and worth leaving the rest to rescue.
Luke 15:8-10 (NIV) 8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
On verse 8-10: Have you ever searched your house just to find one lost coin? Keep in mind that the silver coin Jesus talks about in this story is a drachma, which according to some scholars was equivalent to a day’s wages for most people in Israel. Other scholars believe that the silver coin Jesus is picturing here is one of ten silver coins that an engaged woman would save up and wear across her forehead as a way to announce her upcoming marriage. To lose one of those coins would be a significant loss.
This story shows that, like a lost coin, you are precious in God’s eyes. You are so valuable to God that He would search high and low for you and will not stop until He finds you.
These two parables make it clear why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them: it’s because God loves us and Jesus is on a search and rescue mission to save us. When we as sinners repent (that is, turn back to God with Jesus’ help), there is great rejoicing in heaven.
Heavenly Father, thank You that like a shepherd going after his lost sheep, like a woman searching for a lost coin, You see me as valuable and worth searching for when I am lost. Thank You for going after me and searching for me. Because of You I proclaim that I am valuable, chosen, forgiven and free. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!