We all know people who are easily accepting of others, who readily act with compassion, the types who will quickly give hugs when they are called for. God really is like that! Just look at Luke 15, where you find the stories of the Shepherd leaving the 99 sheep for the one that is lost, the lost coin… the Prodigal Son.
Jesus told this parable (apparently they are all part of one parable) to a mixed crowd–the tax collectors were there, but so were the muttering Pharisees. They thought Jesus was doing a little too much partying with these other types, so he proceeded to explain…
This sermon from Sunday was about Repentance–the celebration of repentance, the joy! You see those two words–celebration, joy–many times in this chapter. The way to the joy is through repentance, and it’s not just for the first-time-comer to Christ, but should be a regular experience for Christians. Like the prodigal son, we still have many of those enlightening moments (I had one just last week) when we say “WHAT am I DOING?!”
It’s the Shepherd himself who brings us to that moment, helping us to realize that we are totally lost, and there is no way (as much as we make a plan, like the prodigal son did) that we can do anything to help ourselves. He rescues us, joyfully lifting us (bleating and kicking sometimes) to his shoulder. Jesus points out that all heaven celebrates, and it is each individual rescue–rejoicing over one that was lost.
It’s God who moves toward us first. He goes out searching. Even before the prodigal son has arrived home, the Father runs out to meet him. The son continues with his confession-plan, but the Father interrupts and calls for a party! God’s restoration is complete: “You are my son!” he says. “You are my child!”
The part where Jesus shows compassion for the Pharisees always hits me with a little jolt of surprise. Even for those mutterers? Yes: look how the Father goes out to the older son (the one who never left, but stayed at home working hard), who is self-righteously standing outside the party, and the father pleads with him to join in! This poor son is missing out on all the joy and celebration, all because he’s too proud for his own repentance…
“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…'” Luke 15: 1-12