Tag Archives: lost

Domenico Fetti - Parable of the Lost Drachma

Luke 15 – Rejoice, The Lost is Found

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. The candle for this day represents joy. In Chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables that emphasize the joy experienced by finding the lost. These parables come in response to the Pharisees’ grumblings that Jesus “receives sinners and eats with them.” (v 2, NASB)

In the first parable, Jesus draws on one of His most common themes, that of a shepherd and his sheep. The reason this is such common imagery is that Israel was soundly based in an agricultural society. Furthermore, the role of the shepherd goes beyond that level to religious significance, being used regularly throughout the Old Testament to describe God. Here Jesus asks a question that has an obvious answer for anyone in that culture. He asks, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (v 4) He then emphasizes that this is not just a good thing, but a reason for great celebration. Jesus explains his reason for the story when he says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Two things strike me about this parable. First, I have to question leaving the 99 sheep unattended. But as I think about, it seems the emphasis on it being the “open pasture” is the thing of which we take note. This, with the combination of them being identified with the righteous, would seem to indicate that they were safe in the open pasture. But this then takes us to the second question that strikes me when it describes these individuals as “righteous persons who need no repentance.” If I had no other knowledge of scripture, this would seem odd to me, but in light of Romans 3:10, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one'” I really have to question this. My conclusion is that Jesus is using hyperbole, an extreme hypothetical situation, to make his point. He is not saying that there are people who do not need repentance but explaining how important it is to him to reach the lost.

He then presents a second parable to make his point, telling of a woman who lost one of her 10 silver coins. He says that she would “light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.” (v 8) In modern terms, she would “tear the house apart looking for it.” Again, finding it leads to great rejoicing. And again, Jesus explains that his point is that “in the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v 10) This carries an even great emphasis if we understand that the coin was 1) about a day’s wages, and 2) the ten coins may have been a dowry often worn as an ornamental headdress.

Jesus finally concludes his teaching on the subject of finding the lost with a parable most commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son. Here we find a rich man with two sons. The younger son decides that he has enough and asks his father to give him his share of the inheritance now. Now while most of us may laugh in our son’s face, and some may consider completely disowning him there for his greedy nature, this father does what to me is unexpected. He agrees and divides his belongings down the middle, giving half to the younger son, as he requested. I think that in this Jesus is emphasizing the point God does not force us to live his way. Instead, if we choose to walk away from God, he will let us. What comes next is no surprise, the young man moves away to live the “highlife” with his newfound wealth.

As we expect, the wealth eventually runs out, and of course, that means that his new “friends” disappear, leaving him destitute. To make things worse, a famine strikes the land. So to survive, he takes a job swilling the pigs. We should take note of the fact that pigs were, of course, considered unclean under Old Testament law, therefore emphasizing how far he had fallen. To make the final emphasis clear, he says that the young man was so hungry, he wanted to each what was being fed to the pigs.

After coming to his senses, the young man realizes that his father’s servants have more than he does. As a result, he decides to go back and ask his father to take him on as a servant.

Here is where things again change. As he approaches his father’s home, “his father saw him (at a distance) and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (v 20) The son tries to tell his father that his remorse, but he is ignored. Rather, his father “said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Vv 22 – 24) The point here is also clear. Just as God allows us to walk away, he is always waiting ready to embrace us when we return. 

This parable, however, does not end with the celebration, but rather with a response of the older brother.  Now I think it is important to remember that Jesus is speaking in response to the Scribes and Pharisees grumbling about his hanging out with sinners. Here we find the older son becoming angry as he learns of the celebration being given by his father, in honor of his brother. He goes to his father and says, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never]neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” (Vv 29 – 30) I think that it is very easy to fall into this category. When we feel that we have done everything right and yet we see those who have done everything wrong, “repent” and suddenly all is forgiven. For all the work we have done, we end out in the same boat as those who did everything wrong only to turn around. 

The father recognizes the frustration being faced by the older son and responds by reassuring him that his reward is sure. But he points out that this is still a reason for celebration. “He said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Vv 31 – 32)

My takeaways from this passage are: 1) A key part of the mission of Jesus was, and still is, to reach the lost. 2) God gives us the freedom to choose whether to follow him or not, And 3) we should not judge the past life of those who were lost, but rather, we should rejoice with Heaven when they are found.

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Words by John Newton, 1779
Music by James P. Carrell & David S. Clayton, 1831

 


Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8 – 10

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus
Romans 3:20 – 24

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:24 – 25


 

If we are honest, most of us tend to think pretty highly of ourselves.  We like to think we are the most interesting person we know.  We like to think we have amazing talents that are unmatched.  We like to think that we can do any we set our minds to doing. And most importantly, we like to think that we are really good people.  But are we really any of these things?

I mean, if I am really honest, there are definitely more interesting people out there than me.  There are also people with far more amazing talents than I have.  If I am honest, I would much rather sit back and relax rather than following through on some of my projects.  And finally, deep down, I realize I am not such a good person, but rather someone who likes to look out for my own interest. This theme is found presented in John Newton’s famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

Newton writes, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that save a wretch like me.” We all have heard these words sung and often sung them ourselves.  But when we stop to listen to the words we might ask, “Really, isn’t that a little harsh. A wretch like me?  I mean really, I am not that bad.”  But when we stop to look at the real magnitude of God’s grace, we realize that in comparison with that grace, we are, . . I am, a miserable wretch. It is then that we can say with Paul in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am!”

You see, in our eyes we may look at some people as greater sinners than others.  But the reality is that in God’s eyes, there is no difference between one sin and another.  And one sinner is not greater than another.  Look at the words of Romans 3:23 which tell us, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  You see it does not matter what sin you have done or how many you have done. The words of the hymn hold true, we are sinners and truly can say “a wretch like me.”

What is more, this grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:8) to see us through our trials. Newton writes, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.” When we realize the situation we really live in, then we can look back and see that it is God’s grace alone, not our doing, that has safely brought us to the point we now find ourselves.  What is more, this grace that has brought us to today, can see us through to the end.

It is truly an amazing grace that has been bestowed on us.  A grace that we desperately need. A grace that can be found through Christ alone.  There is a famous quote given by John Newton later in his life that sums it up.  “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” When we understand this and begin to truly see ourselves as Newton did, we find new meaning in these familiar words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

 

 

Read more about “Amazing Grace.”