Summary: God’s heart is for lost things to be found and ruptured relationships to be reconciled.

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Dec. 30, 2001

Scripture Text:

Luke 15:1-32


Jeff Williams

Good morning! My neighbors must have thought I was crazy. I was standing in the dumpster. I was not looking in the dumpster. I was standing knee deep in their trash. One of my boys had been playing with my keys and the last place we saw them was in the vicinity of the trashcan. I had searched everywhere and concluded that they must have thrown my keys away. So there I was in the dumpster digging through coffee grinds and last night’s chili when Maxine saved the day and found the keys under the couch. I was so happy I wanted to hug her but she made me take a shower first.

Have you ever lost something? I am better at it than most. I have lost coats, gloves, watches, sunglasses, my place in a song, and my heart to a girl named Maxine. But out of all the things I’ve lost, my mind is the thing I miss the most. I lived in Memphis twenty-one years and still get lost when visiting my father. When I was younger I lost my keys so much that my mother bought me a device that would beep when you clapped near it. I lost that too.

Losing something is the most frustrating thing, especially if it valuable. The search can be intense and involve all of our resources. Little Jasmine Anderson, the toddler that was kidnapped from the bus station in Chicago on Christmas Eve, is back at home due to a nation-wide search involving law enforcement officers from all over the country. Have you ever thought about what God thinks about lost things? Does He care? This morning we will hear from God’s Word about God’s heart toward lost sheep, lost silver, and lost sons. Turn with me to Luke Chapter 15 as I explain the context.

Verse 1 starts:

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.

Jesus was doing what he did best ­ eating lunch and explaining the things of God. He was teaching the people He loved best ­ the outcasts. Jesus hung out with dishonest businessmen, crooked politicians, and brazen prostitutes who could have cared less about the religious rules of the day. This verse specifically identifies the “tax collectors.” These were Jews that had turned against their own country and collected taxes for the Roman government that occupied Palestine. They extorted money from their fellow countrymen and got rich doing so. For this they paid a heavy price. Tax collectors were excluded from the religious community and shunned by most respectable Jews.

Currently there is debate going on within our government whether John Walker should be tried for treason. He is the young American who was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afganistan. In that culture, there was no debate. Tax collecting was treasonous and deserving of death. But in Jesus they found a friend. In fact, Jesus had chosen a tax collector who He renamed Matthew to be part of His mentoring group of disciples. These men, along with the dregs of Jewish society, were drawn to hear Jesus speak. Jesus went further than just teaching them, He ate with them. To associate with these people was bad enough, but to eat with them was outrageous! The original meaning of our word companion means “with bread.” To eat with someone was a sign to all of your friendship with that person. Jesus drove the religious leaders crazy!

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Now before we are too hard on these guys, remember that they were the “good” guys. They championed the Word of God. They were interested in holiness and many had a sincere desire for pleasing God. There was just one problem. They had forgotten that lost people matter to God. They were looking for a Messiah to conquer Rome not One who could conquer lost hearts. Can you hear them, “ You know he calls himself a rabbi and some say he is the Messiah. Doesn’t he know who he is sharing bread with? Doesn’t he know that God hates sinners?” They were grumbling and muttering and they were wrong. Or at least, part wrong. God hates sin because it separates us from Him but he loves sinners enough to give His Son for them. The teachers needed teaching and Jesus tells three parables to drive home His point.

He doesn’t give a lecture or a sermon but tells a story of a lost sheep, lost silver, and a lost son.

A Lost Sheep

Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and goes after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

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