Summary: Luke 15 contains three parables about lost items. In each story, extreme measures are taken to seek the lost; when each is found, there is great rejoicing. These stories are pictures of how God seeks us and the joy heaven experiences when we are found.
What Makes Heaven Happy?
by David O. Dykes
What are the greatest chapters in the Bible? If I compiled a top five list, I think Psalm 23 would be near the top, along with Romans 8, and the third chapter of John. I would also add Luke 15 to the short list of the greatest chapters in the entire Bible. It contains three parables about things that were lost and then found. The first parable is about a lost sheep and the shepherd who goes out to rescue it. The second parable is about a lost coin and the woman who searched frantically for it. The third story is called the Prodigal Son and is the most familiar of the three. It’s about a son who becomes lost to his father. The theme connecting these three parables is when that which is lost is found, there is great rejoicing. Over the next few weeks, we are going to be examining these three parables. Today, we’ll look at the first two parables, and then I’ll spend three weeks speaking on the parable of the Prodigal Son. Let’s begin reading in verse 1:
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
There were two different groups present in Jesus’ audience. The Pharisees and teachers of the law had become the enemies of Jesus by this time. They followed him around looking for a reason to condemn Him. These religious fanatics were so scrupulous in their observance of the law; they would never sit down and eat with “sinners” like tax collectors and common men. Jesus didn’t share their scruples, so He was always hanging out with the outcasts and rejected people. The words of Jesus made the religious crowd so angry, they were going to eventually crucify Him in the name of their religion. But the Bible says the common people heard Jesus gladly–they rejoiced in His words! We need to be on guard constantly so we don’t become so self-righteous that we begin to exclude people who aren’t just like us. When we do, we become exactly like those Pharisees. Look at their criticism of Jesus: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” My response to that is, “Thank God He welcomes sinners, or I would never have a chance to know Him!” Their criticism was actually a compliment! As the old hymn says, “Sing it o’er and o’er again, Christ receiveth sinful men!” If you are here today and you feel you aren’t good enough, that you have failed and blown it too many times to approach God, let me remind you that Jesus welcomes sinners! Because Jesus welcomed sinners, as the Body of Christ, we need to welcome sinners, too! Look at verse 3:
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 go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. The 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. Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
What is it that makes heaven happy? In all three of these parables, Jesus reports there is great rejoicing in heaven when one person turns from their sins and puts their faith in Jesus Christ. The world may be impressed when we build a huge building, but I don’t believe heaven celebrates too much when a building is built. The world may be impressed with our multitude of programs and ministries, but Jesus never said there was joy in the presence of angels over 4,000 people gathering for Bible Study. He did say, not once, not twice, but three times there is great joy in heaven when one person turns to God and receives His forgiveness.
There’s a gospel song entitled, “That’s when the angels rejoice” written by Larry Bryant:
When the Model T first hit the street,
It didn’t bring all heaven to its feet.