The lost sheep. 15:1-10
Our passage for study is made up of two teaching parables: The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin, both of which are linked to the parable commonly known as The Prodigal Son, 15:11-32. Jesus has already made it clear that repentance is an urgent necessity - "unless you repent you too will all perish." In these two parables Jesus sets out to explain a substantial truth about repentance, namely that it is a particular human response toward God which fills him with joy, ie. it pleases him. This joy is the very same joy which Jesus exhibits when "tax collectors and sinners" gather around him.
v1-2. Luke sets the scene by describing how the Pharisees and Scribes are offended by Jesus' association with people who are religious outcasts. These "sinners" were not the type of people righteous Pharisees and Scribes would want to include in their fellowship. The term "sinner" here describes those who do not keep the religious ceremonies dictated by the rabbis. They are therefore, unclean. "Tax collectors" were regarded as traitors because of their association with the Roman authorities. Jesus "welcomed" (received) them - welcomed their repentance, but not their sin.
v3-6. First, Jesus relates the parable of the lost sheep, or probably better titled, the parable of the seeking shepherd.
v7. Jesus now applies the parable. What pleases God, what fills him with joy, is the repentance of a broken sinner, the deliberate turning from self to God for mercy, for forgiveness, grace. God is not filled with joy at the compromised goodness of the seemingly righteous, those who think they do not need to repent, think they "have no need of a physician." As Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance", 11:31,32. So, a person's standing in the sight of God rests solely on repentance; only repentance prompts "rejoicing in heaven."
v8-9. The parable of the lost coin is a replay of the parable of the lost sheep. A woman, who has lost a coin, possibly part of a piece of jewelry, searches for the coin, finds it and rejoices. The coin referred to in the parable is a "drachma", a small silver coin amounting to a day's wage for a laborer.
v10. Jesus now applies the parable in much the same way as he applied the parable of the lost sheep. What is it that pleases God, makes him happy? God is filled with joy when a person, who knows they are cursed in his sight, turns to him and asks for his forgiveness. Repentance brings joy to the Lord. As for "rejoicing in the presence of the angles", this means much the same as "rejoicing in heaven"; it describes God celebrating with the heavenly host.
What pleases God?
In the school playground we begin to learn the techniques of "how to win friends and influence them." There are two particularly unhealthy techniques which are often developed in later life:
First, there is the standover tactic: violence - "you be my friend or I'll pinch you." In later life the threat of physical violence is transferred to such things as guilt manipulation, the put-down, vicious gossip....... A psychological manipulator maintains their friendships by the threat of harm. We tend to keep on the good side of such a person because we know they can do us damage; they can castrate us with a single word; they can destroy our circle of relationships. Inevitably they become sad and lonely people.
Second there is the reward approach: bribery - "you be my friend and I'll give you a lolly". This approach seeks to please others so as to maintain, or develop friendships. In later life, the need to please others to secure friendships makes such a person a doormat. The user quickly ferrets out the pleaser and uses them for their own advantage. As the years go by the self-worth of the pleaser is slowly undermined.
Genuine friendships are not based on the need to manipulate, or to please. Genuine friendships develop out of mutual care and respect.
We all want our God to be pleased with us, to be filled with joy when he looks upon us, to have his friendship for eternity. This fact can be a very powerful motivator for us to behave in a way that is honoring to God. The trouble is that there is very little that we do that is honoring to God and therefore pleasing to him; there is very little that we do that fills him with joy. I well remember a line from a B class movie called The Henderson Monster: "most noble motivations will not tolerate close inspection." It was a terrible movie, but a really good line. Yes, everything we do is compromised; our righteousness is but filthy rags.
Yet, there is one thing we can do that fills our God with joy and that is repentance. Repentance isn't a feeling sorry for past sins, but involves a turning to and holding onto God in Jesus for forgiveness, acceptance, salvation. There is nothing in our compromised life that is worthy of God's favor. Yet, when we repent, when turn to God for mercy in Jesus, daily rest on Jesus for salvation, it is then that our God is filled with joy. So you see, repentance is what prompts God's joy.
A believer is not required to work at pleasing God, for by looking to Jesus for our eternal salvation, God is already pleased with us, filled with joy, and that completely so.
Discuss the quote, "even our most noble motivations will not tolerate close inspection."
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