9/18/16 Pentecost 17
Pastor Kenneth Frey
Luke 15:1-10 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable:
4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninetynine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninetynine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Love for the one
1. The parable
2. Do we love the one?
“95 . . . 96 . . . 97 . . . 98 . . . 99 . . . Oh, that Jersey! She’s lost again! I can’t believe that sheep. It’s her own fault, too. With her face to the ground, she doesn’t pay attention to where she is. And she doesn’t listen. Well, I’m done with her. I’m not going to waste my time on a sheep that won’t listen. I’ve got 99 to worry about. I will live with a one percent loss.” Is that the way we think? Do we wonder why the Deacons spend so many hours trying to reach those who haven’t been at church for a while? Do we think our pastors have better things to do? After all, they have a flock to take care of. Teachers, are you tempted to write off that kid that never pays attention and never gets it. You have a whole class to deal with, why waste time with one kid?
Jesus looked at it differently. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninetynine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninetynine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
How much value do you place on one sheep? That’s the question really. Sheep were valued for their wool, their meat, their fat, their hides and their horns. More than that, shepherds of Jesus’ day had a close relationship with the sheep in their care. The sheep knew his voice. He slept in the pen with the sheep at times. There’s no way the shepherd can forget about this lost sheep. Now way can he be too busy to get around to looking for this sheep. Now way he can “write it off” as a loss for tax purposes. Instead, he searches and searches and searches. Down in that ravine. Over in that thicket. The sun is hot. The air still. He slips on some lose shale and skins his shin, but he doesn’t stop “until he finds it.”
And when he finds it, what does he do? Puts it on his shoulder. He lovingly carries it back to the flock. Then he calls his friends to celebrate with him. So important, so valuable this one sheep. So much joy when he has it back safe and sound. Jesus loved the one.
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The coin she lost is called a drachma, the Greek version of the more common denarius. Both equal to about a days wages for a common laborer. In our money, about $100. If you had ten $100 bills and you lost one, would you say, “Well, at least I have the other nine?” No, you’d look high and low for it. You’d take the cushions off the chair and the coach. You’d go through all your pockets. You’d check everywhere you could think to look, like this woman who swept and swept until her arms ached. And she kept sweeping “until she finds it.” And then she throws a party to celebrate.
Fifteen years ago today, the worst terrorist attack in American history occurred. Four planes were hijacked by terrorists. Two were flown into the World Trade Center towers. One flew into the Pentagon and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The World Trade Center towers collapsed shortly after the planes piled into the upper floors. Over 3000 Americans lost their lives that day.
For over a week they searched the ruins of the World Trade Center. Twenty?four hours a day. Firemen, policemen and rescue workers. They worked in 18 hour shifts. They were determined. They were desperate. They were focused on one thing: finding survivors. They wouldn’t give up. They couldn’t.
Neither could Jesus. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” It may not sound like a serious charge, but this was equivalent to saying that Jesus hung out with Al Qaeda and drug dealers.
Why was Jesus hanging out with them? Jesus realized that the only way he could pull people out of the mud was to get down into the mud and try to pull them out. So he ate and drank with the well?known “sinners” of his time. He was doing mission work and if even one of them would repent, there would be rejoicing in heaven. Jesus loved the one.
When several firefighters were found under the rubble of the World Trade Center, people rejoiced at the fact they were saved. And when one of those tax collectors repented and believed in Jesus as his Savior, they threw a party in heaven.
When Christ searched for each of us sinners and brought us back through baptism and the Word, they threw a party in heaven. When we wander from God’s Word but then Jesus brings us back to faith through the Word, they throw a party in heaven. Jesus loves each one.
How much is a stinking sheep worth? How much is a dirty drachma worth? A lost sheep and a lost coin are worth the time and effort to find them. They are worth rejoicing when found.
What are you worth? To God, you are worth more than his Son’s own life. You are worth going through hell for. You are worth the effort of searching out and finding. You are worth so much to him he brought you back from sin and hell through baptism and the Word. You are worth dying for, searching for and rejoicing over. Jesus loved you. He loved the one.
And what about others? Sometimes we can get so overwhelmed by the idea of mission work. There is so much to do and so many people to reach. But Jesus shows us here to care about the one. Care about that one member of our flock that you know who is drifting from God’s Word. Care about that one coworker or neighbor who is lost and needs to hear the gospel.
A cost to us? Sure. A cost in time. Building relationships with a friend or neighbor takes time. It takes time to build a relationship so that we can have the opportunity to witness. Or maybe there will be the cost of getting laughed at or of losing a friendship. But it’s worth the risk if just one listens.
See, that’s our purpose. We look for those lost sheep and those lost coins. And those lost sheep and lost coins are going to be sinful. They’re going to be rude. They’re not going to have any time for you. They’re going to love money. They’re going to have rough language. There may be alcohol or drug abuse, morality problems or all of that put together. They are going to promise to be in church on Sunday and never show up. But we need to seek them and welcome them, each individual one at a time.
Mr. Rehberger and Ms. Naumann, what Jesus said about reaching the lost also applies to teaching in a Christian school. The children you serve are lost souls who need to be brought to Jesus. And how do we do that? Love for the one. As you have already demonstrated in your classrooms, you are not just managing a room. You are not just teaching a subject. You are making connections, one at a time, with children. You are having an impact on a class, yes, but also on individual souls. It is a tremendous responsibility, and a wonderful privilege. Some may be easier to love, but you love them all.
Now, you can’t leave the 99 in the wilderness, or course. You can do that with sheep; you can’t do that with children. I think there are laws about that. But the point is Jesus loved and cared about the one sheep, the one dirty drachma, the one sinner, the one soul. May God give all of us that heart, love for the one.