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THE HEART TO FIND THE LOST

Luke 15:1-15:10
Key Verse: 15:4

In the last passage we learned about how to be a disciple of Jesus. It is to hare al love-rivals in our hearts that cannot go with loving Jesus and to carry our own cross. Saltiness of the disciple is there. We pray to be such disciples of Jesus in our time. In Luke 15 Jesus speaks of three parables that can lead us into the heart of God for the lost. Today we will study the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.

First, the parable of the lost sheep (1-7). Look at verse 1. “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.” The tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were most despised and neglected people in the society because of their indecent life. Yet, in their humble state they could have ears to hear the words of Jesus. They were all gathering around to hear Jesus, who welcomed them and spoke the words of life to them. They must have been longing to hear the message of forgiveness of sins and the eternal life in the kingdom of God. When they indeed heard such message from Jesus, their souls were revived, and their hearts were cleansed and they were filled with joy and hope in Jesus.

Then there was another group of people. Look at verse 2. “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” In Luke 5:30-31, when a former tax collector Levi had a great banquet in his house for Jesus and his disciples and many others after his repentance and beginning a new life through Jesus, they complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Then Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the righteous in their own eyes. They were self-righteous people who thought that they did not need to repent. In their self-righteousness and unrepentance, they were condemning others and became critical toward Jesus, who welcomed and associated with humble repentant people. They had no ears to hear the words of Jesus, but only spoke out the words of complaints and criticism. Jesus did not give up on them but had a broken shepherd heart for them told them one parable after another to help them.

Look at verse 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?” The parable of the lost sheep is also written in Matthew’s gospel in a shortened form. It begins, “…if a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away…” (Mt 18:12). But in Luke it begins, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.” One’s own belongings are different from others’ belongings. Someone said, “When a child cries, it is a nuisance to other parehts, but to the child’s own parents it is heart-breaking.” Human beings have a strong attachment to their own belongings. Using such disposition of selfish humans Jesus wanted the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to somehow think of the heart of God for the lost, that is the heart of Jesus

When any of them lost one out of hundred sheep, he would certainly leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until they found it. No one would think, “I have still ninety-nine; losing one does not make a big difference to me; just forget about it.” The picture of the lost sheep remains in his mind each and every day and cannot be erased. The shepherd undoubtedly would go after the lost sheep, leaving the ninety-nine behind.

We are all familiar with the lost; especially losing children would most heart-breaking. But God is most familiar and most pained with the lost. When Adam was lost to sin by disobeying God’s command, God’s first word was “Where are you?” This was God’s voice seeking voice for the lost out of his pained heart. Since man’s fall, God’s pained heart for the last has been endless. Cain killed his brother Abel. In this incident Abel was not lost but embraced in God through his faith. But Cain was lost because of his sin of murder. So God said to him, “Where is your brother?” so that he might be found. When Cain could not respond to God’s gentle counseling but refused God’s help to the end, God put a mark on Cain as the sign of his protection and as the sing of the lost one so that he might be found before his death (Ge 4:15). When Jacob lost his most loved son Joseph because his brothers sold him to Egypt, reporting their father as if some ferocious animal devoured him, his sorrow was overwhelming that he refused all human comfort and said, “In mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.” (Ge 37:34-35). This could be a reflection of God’s broken heart for the lost. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. But God brought them out of the land of slavery, and wanted to make them his God’s treasured possession (Ex 19:5). He guarded them as the apple of his eyes (Dt 32:10). In the Old Testament God is depicted as a shepherd, and his people Israelites as his sheep. But the sheep went astray (Isa 53:6; Jer 50:6). God raised human shepherd to help the people to return to God. However, the shepherds did not take care of them. God expressed his pained and sorrowful heart this way in Ezekiel 34, “My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them (6)… I myself will search for my sheep and look after them (11)… I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land (13)… I will search for the lost and bring back the strays (16).”

Then at God’s time Jesus came as a shepherd to seek and find the lost, even risking his life (Jn 10:11). In Luke 19:10 he stated the purpose of his coming, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus found Simon Peter at the seashore of Galilee. He found Levi at his tax-booth. He found a woman with haemorrhage on the street among the crowds. He found a crippled woman in a synagogue. He found a man suffering from dropsy in the house of a Pharisee. He found a chief tax-collector sitting on sycamore-fig tree. He found a criminal on a cross ending his life at any moment. His seeking and finding was very personal. A slave ran away from his master to Rome. But he was found there through Apostle Paul there and the story became one book of the Bible, Philemon in the New Testament. Still Jesus is seeking for the lost. Among us some were found at the club day booth. Another was found someone in the library. One man was found at his military service. I heard about someone who was found in the place where he went to play Ping-Pong with his friends. Still another was found at a bar. Of course, in many cases finding is not just a one moment-event. It can take even several years or more. One was found after rejecting the invitation to Bible study for five years. Another was found after almost ten years of Bible study. The point is that the shepherd goes after the lost one directly or indirectly until he finds the lost. Jesus’ seeking and founding for the lost is still going on. According to the Bible, God’s desire is that every lost one be sought and found, however painful and difficult it may be. He does not want anyone to be lost forever (2 Pe 3:9). God’s redemptive history is the history of finding the lost and it will go on to the end of the age. His servants participate in this work of God.

Look at verses 5 and 6. “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.’” The joy of the shepherd was finding the lost one. The shepherd’s joy was not just his personal emotion that his labour and effort was rewarded, but that the lost sheep was restored to the original position among the sheep under the care of the shepherd, and was truly happy. So the shepherd wanted to share that joy with his friends and neighbours. That joy is related to God’s joy.

Look at verse 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.” Many things are happening in this world, even great events. What can be God’s greatest concern? We learn that one person’s repentance which is related to the soul’s salvation is God’s greatest concern and joy. In Luke 13, Jesus said of the importance of repentance in this way, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” There seem to be many things that can bring us joy but we may participate in God’s joy by keeping repentance and helping God’s flock of sheep until they repent and so be found.

Second, the parable of the lost coin (8-10). Look at verse 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?" A rich woman might not even bother if she lost one silver coin. But for a poor widow, one silver coin is very precious. Perhaps she was a widow or a single woman saving for her marriage. One silver coin was very precious and valuable to her. So losing one coin was a great matter to her.

The coin was round, so it rolled and then lay flat. The place the coin lay flat was most probably a dark corner in a room with no window. So the woman had to light a lamp. And probably the coin lay there covered with dust or debris, so hidden to the eyes of people. So she had to sweep the house and search carefully until she found it.

Why does Jesus talk about silver coins? Some people are like the cost coin. They are so powerless that they sit down or lie in a certain place and want to stay there permanently. They have no clear motivation for life. They have no self-esteem and sense of honour. They don’t want to make any effort to improve their lives. They may suffer from meaningless and pessimistic view of life or terrible laziness. Anyway they live in despair and fatalism. Yet, they are also made in the image of God with God’s given specific talents. But when they are found, their lives will be different with the restored image of God and polished God’s given talents. They can get up and move their hands and feet to challenge one impossible thing after another in life.

How the woman endeavours to find her lost coin is very impressive. She lights lamp, sweep the house and search carefully. It is interesting that in the Old Testament the word “sweep” is used to express God’s thorough judgment. In Genesis, in his prayer to God Abraham said, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (18:23). In Psalm 90, which is a prayer of Moses the man of God, it is written, “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning” (90:5). God said in Isaiah 14:23, “…I will sweep her (Babylon) with the broom of destruction” and in Zephaniah 1:2, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth.” However, here “sweep” is used to search carefully and find the lost. We remember Jesus, who traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (Lk 8:1). Then he sent his twelve disciples to go from village to village, preaching the gospel (Lk 9:2,6). On another time he appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Lk 10:1). This would be Jesus’ sweeping the land to seek and find the lost. We believe that Jesus wants us to sweep our campus to search and find the lost there, especially who were like the cost coin. We can say that our God is the sweeping God for thorough judgment. No one can escape this sweeping. Also, he is the sweeping God to search carefully and find and save the lost. He wants us to join in that sweeping. Acts 13:48 says, “…all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” In our campus there are those who are appointed for eternal life, and they had to be searched and found through our sweeping. Jesus said in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also…” This could be Jesus’ heartfelt prayer for those who are chosen but lost to be sought and found through sweeping.

Look at verses 9 and 10. “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.” In today’s passage God’s joy over one sinner who repents is emphasized. Our God is the great God who created the heavens and the earth. Yet, he is the humble and delicate God who is concerned about one sinner’s repentance and rejoices over him.

We are going to have 2015 Canadian SBC. We pray that through this conference the lost ones may be found and others re-found that we all may share God’s joy. May we participate in God’s heart to go after the lost, sweeping our campus and searching carefully until the lost ones be found one by one to the great joy of our God and our joy.

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