By Brooke Holt
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And 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.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’” Luke 15:1-7
Jesus spoke to the animal lovers present that day. These Pharisees and scribes didn’t seem terribly concerned about people so Jesus took a different approach to saving work on the Sabbath. They were upset that Jesus had chosen the Sabbath to heal the woman who had been bent over for 18 years under oppression and accused Jesus of breaking the law regarding work on the Sabbath. In response, Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep. Would they seek and save their lost sheep on the Sabbath?
To address the hardness of their hearts, Jesus appeals to the mercy they felt towards their animals. He paints the picture of one of their precious sheep wandering off from the fold. Certainly, they would go and look for that sheep (even on the Sabbath) until they found it. Then, they would celebrate finding the animal! How much more mercy should be shown to a daughter of Abraham than a sheep?
Beyond the Sabbath healings, the company Jesus kept upset the Pharisees and scribes. He actually hung out with sinners and tax collectors! Once again, their hardness of heart was exposed as they never asked Jesus why he chose to befriend these people. They simply judged and condemned the Son of God. If someone was not abiding by their rules and expectations, these religious leaders wrote them off with the sentence of condemnation.
Thankfully, Jesus was not and is not like that. This parable and the ones following it are about Jesus’ heart for those who have failed to follow the rules, to meet expectations, and have been condemned. Jesus brought light into their darkness and invited them into relationship. For those who would receive him, Jesus would bring grace, healing, and forgiveness. This love of Jesus transformed lives!
Meanwhile, the religious leaders remained blind to their own sin and hardness of heart. They didn’t love the people that God loved and did not embrace the kingdom of God. This hardness of heart resulted in their resistance to God himself dwelling among them.
I have heard it said that it is easier to hug a dirty kid than a rigid one. Jesus could wrap his love around those who had sinned miserably. In fact, he loved doing that because Jesus knew his grace could perfectly cleanse them. Jesus, his Father, and all those in heaven rejoice over these cleansed sinners.
Just imagine the joyful celebration in heaven as God’s people soften their hearts to receive the grace of Jesus Christ. I can’t wait to be part of that celebration and hope you are there too!
How is your heart today – soft and tender towards the Lord and his ways or hard and judgmental? Jesus can meet you right where you are. Drop the guards, acknowledge your own sin, receive his grace, and enjoy his abundant love and celebration over you! We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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