God Knows…When Somebody’s Goofed – Part 1
Jesus brought good news to people who had messed up their lives. “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out,” He told them (John 6:37). To the immoral, He brought hope: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
The religious teachers of Jesus’ day weren’t pleased to see how even the scum of society came to hear Him.
“Look at that,” somebody probably muttered. “Look at all those sinners gathering around Jesus! Doesn’t He know what kind of people they are?”
“Yes,” whispered someone else, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” Even though they didn’t mean it as a compliment, this was the best thing they ever said about Jesus. Christ accepted sinners as children of God, runaways welcome to return home. The religious leaders of the day only looked down on sinners, criticizing and despising them.
Jesus knew why the “respectable” people were complaining. So He told them a story.
“If you had a hundred sheep,” He asked, “Which of you, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4) Everyone in the crowd around Jesus was listening. They knew about sheep. They were in sheep-raising country. Many of them had searched for lost sheep. Some earned money from the sheep business. Never would they just forget one lost sheep and be content with the ninety-nine.
The poor sheep that is lost knows it is lost. It got lost through its own foolishness, but it can’t find its way back home. It’s helpless. The shepherd starts out searching and calling. Perhaps it turns dark and stormy, but the shepherd continues to put every effort into the search. He calls. He climbs. He listens. Hearing a faint ‘Baaa,’ he hurries toward the cry. Risking his own neck, he climbs higher until he finally finds the lost sheep.
He doesn’t scold the sheep for getting lost. He doesn’t drive it home with a whip. “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Luke 15:5-6).
Those listening understood Jesus’ story. Some had thought that God hates sinners, that He will not love them until they behave themselves. By this story, Jesus showed what God is really like. He still loves those who wander away from Him. He takes the first step. God goes looking. When He finds the bruised and wounded wanderer, He puts His arms of love around him or her, and brings the wanderer back to the corral of safety. Angels of heaven sing with joy when a sinner repents.
God is kinder than people are. Sometimes when somebody has gone the lost-sheep route and decides to come back to God and do right, he meets criticism and distrust. “It’s just for show” somebody says. “You just want to look good,” another scoffs. “It won’t last,” adds another. If anyone tries to discourage you like this, remember that heaven is rejoicing over your return. Rest in the love of God. Ignore the work of Satan as he tries to drive you away from the Good Shepherd.
Jesus told a second story. Turning to the women, He reminded them of what happens when they lose a coin. Even if you still have nine silver pieces, you will light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until you find the missing one, He said. Then you tell your friends and neighbors so that they can share in your joy. “Likewise,” Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The coin didn’t even know it was lost. It was lost through no fault of its own. In this story we see that God loves those who don’t give Him a thought. He loves those who are doing wrong without realizing it. Someone else’s carelessness may have put them where they are. The lost coin is still valuable. The owner wants it back. Every person, no matter how insignificant, is precious to God. Even if you are buried in rubbish, you are still valuable to God.
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