One reason we need to look at our attitude towards people is because our attitude towards people reveals what we believe about God.
And what it often reveals is that we believe, God is hard.
We are so hard on people because we believe God is so hard, and Jesus tells three stories in a row in Luke 15, that explode that.
The first two go pretty quickly, and in the third, he hits the pause and shows us God’s attitude a little more thoroughly.
But, first, he says.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep?”
And, that’s Jesus’ way of drawing them in.
Because, they were familiar with shepherds and sheep.
It’s like, let’s think about something obvious.
And it’s a pretty strategic illustration actually because in the Old Testament the leaders of Israel were supposed to be like shepherds, and yet at the same time, in Jesus’ day, people like the Pharisees, would have looked down on actual shepherds.
Because, they thought of shepherds as common, rough, and below them, in terms of social status.
And so it’s like Jesus takes this person they would have thought of as almost simple and says let’s put yourself in his position.
If you were a shepherd, and you had a hundred sheep, and you lost one of them. What would you do?
And, everyone listening, knew, what they would do.
Because, it’s not like this is difficult.
I guess someone in our culture might respond I would just be glad I had the ninety-nine, but no one in their culture would.
If they found out one of their sheep was lost.
They’d go after him.
That was like a shepherd’s job.
What’s the point of having a shepherd if he doesn’t go after the sheep?
And you can almost imagine the Pharisees who thought of themselves as better than shepherds, shaking their heads, at these simple shepherds, losing the sheep.
You have one job, take care of the sheep!
Of course, they thought a shepherd should leave the ninety-nine, and personally go after, the one that is lost, until he finds it.
Even though apparently that wouldn’t have been easy.
People familiar with Israel, and shepherding, say this could have taken him several days.
And partly, because, when sheep are lost, they just lay down, and kind of cry, and don’t move, and so it would have been work for this shepherd to find him, and that’s why, when he does, how do you think he responds?
Jesus says, he’s happy. He rejoices.
Which I totally understand.
I lose things all the time.
I am kind of an expert.
And I spend a lot of time searching for things that I lost and so I know how good it is to find something when you thought it was gone, and that’s how this shepherd feels about the sheep.
“And when he has found it,” Luke says, “he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
It’s amazing how much people can care for animals. I am not the biggest animal person, so it is sometimes surprising to me. I read of a woman who took out a 200 thousand rand loan to give as a reward to someone who found her lost dog which seems maybe a little bit extreme, and yet this shepherd’s joy is extreme, because we see, when he comes back after this long trip, with this sheep on his shoulders, he can’t stop, until he shares that joy with others.
And so Luke tells us, “when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”
Which would probably be a little easier to understand if it were something that was more obviously valuable, I mean, a party over one sheep, seems like a little bit much, and yet the point is, that is God’s attitude, when a sinner repents.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven”
And he’s talking about God.
He’s talking about what brings God joy.
Jesus tells us.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous person who need no repentance.”
And I wonder if you believe that?
It’s easy sometimes to get lost in a parable.
Because there are so many interesting details, but one of the keys to understanding Jesus’ parables is to keep your focus, on the main point which is God’s joy, when one single sinner repents.
This is an illustration.
Jesus is not telling us here there actually are ninety-nine people who need no repentance. But he is talking to religious people, who thought of themselves, as good people, like God’s favorites, and yet, weren’t rejoicing as they were seeing these tax collectors and sinners, being spiritually transformed as a result of their relationship with Jesus.
And Jesus is saying, you might need to think again about what really matters to God.
If you are smart enough to assume a simple shepherd is going to go after a lost sheep, what do you think God is doing, with these people who have wandered away from him and how do you think God is going to respond when He sees them turn to Him?
I’ll tell you how, he’s more excited about that, than he is about your attitude, right now.
It’s almost like Jesus says, ok, let me try again.
“Or what woman.”
And Jesus is messing with the Pharisees, because he keeps using these illustrations of people they would have thought of as beneath them.
I know you are supposedly spiritually mature leaders but maybe, you need to go back and learn from these kind of people a little more about God.
“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it.”
And, a silver coin was about a day’s wage.
So, it’s not a lot of money, just like one sheep, is not a lot of sheep, which is part of what gives these stories such power. It’s not like the lost sinner is inherently so valuable, and yet, it’s clear that the lost sinner matters to God.
Like this little bit of money mattered to this woman, which is why she lights a lamp, because the house was dark, and keeps working, and sweeping and seeking diligently, until she finds it, because, even though that wasn’t a lot of money, and she had nine other silver coins, that money mattered to her.
And finding it made her so happy that Jesus says, “when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”
Which is sort of funny and sweet because here grandma is throwing a party for a coin that she found, as she calls together all her friends and neighbors to celebrate, she’s probably spending more on feeding them, than the coin itself was worth, but still we can understand her joy.
And Jesus says that’s like the joy of God.
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Which is overwhelming.
If you can imagine, going to heaven and as you enter this place that’s just more beautiful and awesome than anywhere you’ve ever been you see these beings that are so majestic that you almost want to fall on your face before them, and you notice, that they are happy, and actually celebrating, along with God, and as you watch, they are filled with such abounding joy, that you finally get the courage to go up and ask what is making you so happy?
And they point down to some small, insignificant person here on earth, who has turned from their sin, and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
We have to care about sinful people, because God cares.
This is important.
If you have ever failed someone, you know how hard it is to go back.
You are thinking in your mind they are going to be so mad about me. And if people come around you, they are like, yeah you are probably right, they are going to slam the door in your face.
It’s easy to think of God like that, because we know God’s holy and He takes sin more seriously, than anyone we have ever met.
And yet, it’s so important to understand, God’s not hard.
All of heaven celebrates the repentance of single, solitary sinner. The door, is WIDE OPEN, if you come to him in faith and repentance!
And I am not sure of a story in the Bible that makes that more clear than the third story Jesus tells which we will look at next time.