GOSPEL READING: Luke 15:1-10
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 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 which was lost.’ 7 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. 8 “Or 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? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Meditation: Do you ever feel resentful or get upset when someone else gets treated better than you think they deserve? The scribes and Pharisees took great offense at Jesus because he went out of his way to meet with sinners and he treated them like they were his friends. The Pharisees had strict regulations about how they were to keep away from sinners, lest they incur ritual defilement. They were not to entrust money to sinners or have any business dealings with them, nor trust them with a secret, nor entrust orphans to their care, nor accompany them on a journey, nor give their daughter in marriage to any of their sons, nor invite them as guests or be their guests.
Do you judge others with mercy or disdain – with kindness or harshness?
The Pharisees were shocked when they saw Jesus freely meeting with sinners and even going to their homes to eat with them. Many sinners and outcasts of society were drawn to Jesus to hear him speak about the mercy of God and the offer of new life and friendship in the kingdom of God. When the Pharisees began to question Jesus’ motive and practice of associating with sinners and outcasts, Jesus responded by giving them two parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin to challenge their way of judging sinners and shunning contact with them.
Finding and restoring what has been lost
What is the point of Jesus’ story about a lost sheep and a lost coin? In Jesus’ time shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold.
The housewife who lost a coin faced something of an economic disaster, since the value of the coin would be equivalent to her husband’s daily wage. What would she say to her husband when he returned home from work? They were poor and would suffer greatly because of the loss. Her grief and anxiety turn to joy when she finds the coin.
Bringing the lost to the community of faith
Both the shepherd and the housewife “search until what they have lost is found.” Their persistence pays off. They both instinctively share their joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one another’s sorrows and joys. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to friendship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?
Lord Jesus, let your light dispel the darkness that what is lost may be found and restored. Let your light shine through me that others may see your love and truth and find hope and peace in you. May I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD!
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Joy over the fallen sinner restored in God’s image, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“This second parable compares what was lost to a drachma (Luke 15:8-9). It is as one out of ten, a perfect number and of a sum complete in the accounting. The number ten also is perfect, being the close of the series from the unit upwards. This parable clearly shows that we are in the royal likeness and image, even that of God over all. I suppose the drachma is the denarius on which is stamped the royal likeness. We, who had fallen and had been lost, have been found by Christ and transformed by holiness and righteousness into his image… A search was made for that which had fallen, so the woman lighted a lamp… By the light, what was lost is saved, and there is joy for the powers above. They rejoice even in one sinner that repents, as he who knows all things has taught us. They keep a festival over one who is saved, united with the divine purpose, and never cease to praise the Savior’s gentleness. What great joy must fill them when all beneath heaven is saved and Christ calls them by faith to acknowledge the truth? They put off the pollution of sin and freed their necks from the bonds of death. They have escaped from the blame of their wandering and fall! We gain all these things in Christ.”(excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 106)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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