"Upside Down, Inside Out"
Introduction: Talk of the church about our identity
Carrying us into the next century
Must ascertain our identity, and propagate that identity
2) maintain integrity of the past
Wanted purity in the face of an opposing, carnal culture where humanism reigned supreme
Pharisees sought to maintain the Jewish identity by holding to the past
They were to be a different people
Laws of purity and separation
1. No idols
"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth...You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold." (RSV)
2. Dietary restrictions
Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14
3. Clothing restrictions
"A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment" (RSV)
4. Hair cut restrictions
"You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard." (RSV)
5. Separate from other nations
Exodus 34:13-17; Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Ezra 10:11
"Now then make confession to the Lord the God of your fathers, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives." Ezra 10:11 (RSV)
Although we give them a negative assessment, their desire was to protect their identity as the people of God. These were God’s laws.
Tax Collectors and Sinners
For Jesus to eat with tax collectors and sinners was a problem
Tainted by their culture. Lived in association and conjunction with the Romans and their highly pagan, Hellenistic, erotic culture; which they had adopted from the Greeks.
low life who not only supported the Romans by collecting taxes, but would in fact rob his own people to do so.
sinners was just a broad category with everyone else who lived the secular lifestyle: prostitutes, pig herders, drunks, unbelievers who overtly broke the laws of God
To intermingle with such disrepute was to sully oneself beyond degree. You couldn’t take enough showers to get the filth off.
What baffles the Pharisees, these protectors of the faith, is that Jesus would so blatantly sully himself.
"This man receives sinners and eats with them."
In response Jesus tells this parable.
On the surface it seems straightforward
man has 100 sheep
man loses one
man leaves 99
man looks for one
man throws party for finding sheep
The problem is the economics. What kind of a steward leaves 99 sheep unattended in the wilderness and goes out to find the one? A wise manager would protect the remaining 99, keep a stronger vigilance, and simply write off the one as a loss.
But in Jesus’ parable everything is turned around. Instead of taking value in the 99 value is found in the return of the one lost sheep.
"And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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 which was lost.’" (RSV)
What a wake-up call this must have been for the Pharisees. Jesus is declaring that these tax collectors and sinners who are seeking Him out are prized more than the Pharisees who have been keeping in step, obeying the law all the time.
What a challenge it is for us today to think that God rejoices more over a prostitute who comes to Christ, a homosexual who repents, a murderer who humbly bows than He does over you and I.
You and me, we’re the saints of the church. God should rejoice that we came to church today. We read our bibles this week. We even prayed everyday.
Our whole lives we’ve been taught then when you do well, work according to the system, you will succeed and be praised. We long for promotions where we are praised. Our goal is to be #1, to reach the top.
And yet Jesus turns our lives upside down. At one point He brought a child into their midst and said that if the disciples wanted to be the greatest they would have to be humble like a child, and be the servant of all.
"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."
If God rejoices so greatly over the return of a lost sheep, then why don’t we?
[my disagreement with Bill Proulx. He wants to focus on sanctification, but questions churches involved in salvation alone. Growth over decision.]
What are we trying to preserve as a people? Our building, an institution, our traditions? Or, are we preserving our mission to leave the 99 and to seek the one?
"Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
and love that soul through me.
And my I always do my part
to win that soul for thee."
[Dr. Tim Green. "Embodying Our Identity: Beyond The Fortress Walls". Taken from his series "Celebrating Our Identity". Http://www.preachersmagazine.org.]