Summary: A series on Luke 15
Lost and Found!
“What Makes Heaven Rejoice?”
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 on the parable of the Prodigal Son. Read Luke 15:1-2.
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! 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! Read Luke 15:3-10.
What is it that makes heaven rejoice? 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 when a lot of peopel gather 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. Let’s examine these two parables and discover why heaven gets so happy when a person turns to Christ. First, consider what Jesus said about
I. THE LOST SHEEP: GOD LOVES YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL.
In all three of these parables, there was something lost that was found. In the first parable, a little lamb is lost and the Shepherd leaves the others to go out and find the individual lamb. It’s obvious we are like the lost lamb and Jesus is the Shepherd. We are one who is lost. That’s leads to this observation:
1. The worst thing in life is to be lost. In the parable, God is the Shepherd, and the lost lamb represents us. In Isaiah 53:6, the Bible says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” I’ve shared with you before that there are three words starting with “D” that describe sheep: They are dumb, defenseless, and directionless. You won’t see any trained sheep acts at the circus–they are too dumb. Almost all animals have either claws, sharp teeth, quills, a hard shell, or speed to escape predators–but not a lamb–they have no defenses. Sheep get lost easily, too. There are homing pigeons, and cats and dogs who can often find their way back home, but sheep are clueless about how to find their own way back home.
In many respects, we are the same way in our ability to rescue ourselves from our lost condition. We are dumb, defenseless, and directionless. Like sheep, we all have a tendency to stray away from God. The hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” It can be unnerving to be lost. How many of you have ever been in a strange building or city and gotten lost? It can be a distressing experience, but you were only lost temporarily, because you are here today! In this passage Jesus uses the word “lost” to speak of the spiritual condition of being eternally lost. The word L-O-S-T is one of the scariest four lettered words in the human language.