Summary: We should never play down the joy and peace of the relationship Jesus wants with us, but equally we should never underestimate cost.
Luke 15:8-10, 14:25-35
Today if you will follow me we shall walk backwards through Luke’s story and I pray encounter something of the power of God’s message for us today.
The lost coin parable is a wonderful lesson for us. In it we find a woman who represents God loosing a day’s earnings. The parable is revolutionary as it offers to us a female picture of God – a picture that would have been very difficult for Jews of Jesus day and some Christian’s today.
God is showing us not that He has feminine qualities, rather more radically and important He is showing us She is!
God the woman goes in pursuit of something so valuable to Her and stops only when Her search is fruitful. When She finds the coin then the party begins - for this God is a party animal like some of us!
The wider lesson of course is that we are so precious that She will not stop Her search for us, for we are truly priceless in her sight. We are irreplaceable and have supreme value to God. So valuable God spared nothing for us.
In Hosea 9:10 we see another picture of God that compliments this one so well. Hosea tells us that God finding Israel is like ‘finding grapes in the desert. . early fruit on the fig tree.’
How God wants us understand our worth in Her/His eyes. Too often we are people who go around hating ourselves - heads bowed see nothing of value in us. Yet we are so special to God - as special as a vine prospering in the desert - as sweet to Her as the first fruits of the season.
I pray you would allow this truth to shape your walk with God.
The second passage from Luke 14 seems more harsh and difficult to understand - How can they possibly fit together?
God’s overwhelming love seeking us out like the woman in the parable is what we call grace - 100% God’s work. We deserve nothing but God our Father lavishes love and forgiveness on us. But when we hear that something is required of us it is a different matter isn’t it?
That last verse of the first reading Luke 15:10 says “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over. . . ” What?
“Over one sinner who repents”
Yes God pours out grace over us but the scriptures remind us that there is a part for us to play. We need to repent and have commitment. We need to be individuals and communities who seek to journey with God - an exclusive relationship is what is called for.
Jesus in the reading from Luke 14 is surrounded by enthusiastic crowds of people - hundreds/thousands have been following Him and marveling at His teaching and miracles and professing they will follow Him and be His disciples. If it were today those crowds would include us - Yes?
We would be jostling for a better view, saying ‘I will follow you’.
But Jesus’ word to them and us is a harsh. He talks of hating family and carrying our cross. Of counting cost before beginning and giving up all in order to be disciples.
We should never play down the joy and peace of the relationship Jesus wants with us, but equally we should never underestimate cost. Too often I have heard Church and Christians make it sound so easy – it is not. Being a Christian is to travel the narrow not the wide way.
The crowd following Jesus that day could not offer the repentance and commitment required. They were like builders who start a project only to find they cannot finish it.
I am reminded again here of Hosea 9:15. God says he began to hate Israel because of constant sinning. Same meaning there as here - not hates really but love less. Imagine a relationship so strong, a partner or maybe a child. A love so strong, intense, exclusive that nothing ever comes close.
A love that burns with passion and longs to see the other succeed and prosper.
A love that is exclusive and faithful.
In the sight of such love all other relationships are as hate. In the pure light of such love rejection really hurts like hell. That is what Jesus is saying we need to have with Him - He must come first - always only first.
That old hymn King of Glory, King of Peace (Hymns and Psalms 499) says in verse 2 ‘And the cream of all my heart I will bring thee.’ and that is what we need to be offering God. The very best we can each and every day, not the dregs that are left after we have done all the things we think are more important.