Thursday, December 06, 2012



We come now to Luke chapter 15 where Jesus is criticized again for hanging out with the wrong people.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 

There were two types of people at the party where Jesus was attending-tax collectors and sinners. These tax collectors were Jews who were considered traitors for working for the Roman government. They had a reputation for being unfair. He collected the Roman tax and added an additional fee for himself. 

The sinners were basically the non-religious. They weren't synagogue-goers for the most part and therefore considered unclean ceremonially. They were viewed as the "outsiders" or the "others". Jesus not only welcomed them; He eats with them. He went out of His way to make them feel welcome. Even more of an offense was that Jesus was content to eat with them. Fellowship around the table in Jesus' time was more than just a meal. To eat with someone was a full acceptance of them and Jesus did exactly that.

His response to this criticism was in the form of three parables-all about those who were lost. The first parable is about sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "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 neighbors 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. 

NOTE Jesus' high value for the lost sheep. Remember, Jesus is the physician who is looking for those who are sick. The 99 sheep have apparently already repented or changed their direction in life toward God. Therefore, they are not in any need of being found. They are safe and secure. The sheep that is lost must be sought out by the shepherd and this sheep becomes the most valuable of all.

Here's the bottom-line on this parable. Jesus is the shepherd whose mission is to find the lost sheep of our world and bring them back into relationship with himself and with the other sheep. That's salvation. This is an illustration of the fact that Jesus' search is relentless for those who are lost. He will do anything He has to do to find those who are lost.

Then there is a curious statement at the end of the parable. Jesus says that "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine." So, "Come and rejoice with me." It's time for a party!

The lost sheep is a sinner and/or a tax collector, and the ninety-nine represent the righteous. This is the answer to the Pharisees who were grumbling about Jesus' welcoming tax collectors and sinners. You are happy for all your sheep. It is when one is threatened and may be injured or killed that causes you to worry and be concerned. So, you search and search until you find it. Then you are so thrilled that you naturally want to throw a little celebration.

What was Jesus doing hanging out and eating with the tax collectors and sinners? He was searching for lost sheep. This is what the kingdom of God is all about-looking for those who are lost and bringing them home. It was Jesus' primary mission and it's still His mission today. And, since seeking those who are lost is at the heart of Jesus, it ought to be on your heart, too.

So, who are you hanging out with? Now, it's vital that you hang out with a few in the name of Jesus. However, living in the kingdom also requires that you hang out with the lost. So, who ARE you hanging out with? To be like Jesus, think about hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners in your world-those who are the lost, the non-religious. I've found this to be some of the most rewarding encounters of my life. Try it. I think you'll like it.