Luke 15:1-10 (ESV)
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Jewish religious leaders were not happy with Jesus because he ate with those considered morally worthless. The irony was that these “worthless” people drew near to Jesus instead of the nation’s religious élite. In the first century, when people ate together it was a symbol of fellowship and acceptance. Jesus’ association with sinners was not tolerable in the eyes of the Pharisees and scribes. In response to their grumbling, Jesus told them three parables to illustrate the same truth: God came to save sinners, and his followers should be thrilled when those who are lost come to repentance. The first parable Jesus gave was the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The parable centers on a modest shepherd with a flock of one hundred sheep. When the shepherd counts his flock one evening, he discovers that one sheep is missing. He immediately leaves the ninety-nine who are safe, and goes out after the lost one. When the shepherd finds the straggler, he carefully picks it up, puts it on his shoulders, and carries it back safely. He later goes on to call his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him. Who knew what could have happened to that lost sheep! But it didn’t matter anymore. The sheep was found, and it was a time for celebration.
In the second parable, the Parable of the Lost Coin, Jesus spoke about a woman who loses one of her ten coins. She sweeps and searches, and when she finds that lost coin she too rejoices, even calling her girlfriends and the neighborhood women to celebrate with her. Again, there was joy when something lost was found. In both parables, the friends and the neighbors rejoice in the discovery of the sheep or the coin. And both times, Jesus stressed that there is great joy in the unseen realm when a sinner repents. Wow! If you want to be the trigger for a party in heaven, then go out and look for sinners to lead to Jesus. Pray for those who are working hard to bring the gospel the lost, and do whatever you can to team up with fellow believers who, by God’s Spirit, are leading others to genuine faith. In doing so, you will bring great gladness to heaven, to the angels, and to the Lord himself. Remember, heaven rejoices when sinners repent.