Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 25th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Timothy 2; Proverbs 21; Isaiah 51-52
Today's scripture focus is Luke 15:3-7

Luke 15:3-7

English Standard Version (ESV)
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.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Recovering the Lost Sheep
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Parable of the Lost Sheep & Coin
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Deconstruct/Reconstruct

The key to all the parables in this chapter is to view them with yesterday's passage in mind.  Both the "high-class sinners" (the Pharisees), and the "low-class" or even "outcast sinners" (the tax collectors), had a wrong worldview.

The tax collectors and other social outcasts and pariahs, would've believed that they were so far gone, there was no hope for them.  God would never forgive them, much less pursue them.

The Pharisees had the opposite worldview. They believed they were so morally upright that they had curried favour with God.  They're in, and the outcasts are out. They're worthy, and God can't even be bothered with the "sinners".

And so, Jesus deconstructs both world views with these parables.

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus shows the outcasts that not only will Jesus forgive them, He will pursue them.  He will rescue them.  He will search for them.  And then He will rejoice over them!

Matt Chandler explains....
This side [the outcast] thinks that heaven rejoices over God’s just judgment on their lives, which is why they aren’t coming to God. And He goes, “No, no, no. There’s more celebration in your coming home than you being judged.” And this side [the Pharisee] over here believes there’s more celebration over their goodness than the repentance of those who are wicked, and they just found out that’s not true either. Do you see the reconstruction? So He tore down both belief systems and rebuilt another one.
Chandler is quick to remind us though, that both groups need grace.
If all you do is switch the characters in the story, we’re no better off. If you show grace and mercy to the tax collector and sinner but you show no grace and mercy to the older brother, you’re in the same world-view. You’re in the same world-view that Jesus deconstructed, that He destroyed. If the hardest, darkest of life get all grace and mercy and love but the religious bigot gets none, then we’re still operating in the same’ve got to be gracious to the grace killers. If you haven’t, you are them. Now the line’s thin, because there’s got to be times where you go, “That’s a lie.” But matters of doctrine are very, very different than matters of philosophy. Be careful that you don’t let deconstruction become fuel for your bitterness.

This parable would have been extremely offensive to the Pharisees because Jesus tells the story in such a way that they have to see themselves as the shepherd - some of the lowest of Jewish society.

As a side note: it is a sign of Jesus' humility that He would identify with shepherds when He declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd.  Which makes us the stupid and utterly defenceless sheep - apt description as we are prone to wander, and can do absolutely nothing to save ourselves.  We rely completely on our Good Shepherd.

But though the parable was offensive, the story would make sense.  I mean, the basic rule of shepherding is that you don't lose the sheep.  So, it would make sense that the shepherd would have to go looking for the lost sheep.  And they would celebrate and rejoice when the lost sheep was found.

So, they're with Him in the story itself, though they're offended by the idea of having to think of themselves as hypothetical shepherds.

But it's the application that really gets them.

The whole story is about the joy of God when a lost sinner is sought and found and recovered. And the point is, how is it that God can be so eager, that God can be so desirous, that God can be so concerned to seek and save the lost, and you, who claim to be God's representatives on earth only despise the lost? How can that be? Another way to say that was, you couldn't be further from the heart of God. You despise the lost and God rejoices over them. You don't want to go near the lost and God pursues and finds and carries them back. And how is it that you can respect the shepherd, an unclean shepherd, who goes out to find an unclean animal and bring it back? How is it that you can take the lofty, ethical posture on the fact that he did the right thing and condemn Me for rescuing eternal souls? How warped are you? You are far from the heart of God and you are caught up in superficiality and triviality while souls all around you are perishing. Matthew, chapter 9, Jesus was teaching and doing His miracles and delivering people from illnesses and diseases. And it says He was moved with compassion because He saw all the people as "sheep without a shepherd"...nobody to come and find them, nobody to rescue them, no one to come and pick them up out of their hopeless, helpless, wounded, nearly lifeless condition and carry them back. What hypocrites the scribes and Pharisees were.....

It is Christ who seeks the lost. It is Christ who finds whomever He seeks because He knows His sheep. And it is Christ who bears the full burden of their restoration. In fact, in that very act, the shepherd was making a tremendous sacrifice, the pain, suffering, to bear the full weight of the sheep back home. And so Jesus Christ bears the full weight of our recovery, the full weight of our restoration. He finds us when we are lost and lonely and hopeless and helpless and nearly lifeless and He comes to us and He picks us up and He puts us on our [His] back and there was nothing the sheep could do or did do....He is the Shepherd who pays whatever the sacrifice is to bring the sheep back. It reminds me of Isaiah 53, that wonderful Messianic chapter. Listen to these words. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried...He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell on Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." He bears it all. It's all of grace. It's all of Christ. All we can do is acknowledge our lostness and our helplessness and our hopelessness and yield in faith to the Great Shepherd who picks us up. The Shepherd does the seeking, the Shepherd does the finding, the Shepherd does the lifting, the Shepherd does the carrying, the Shepherd does the restoring and the Shepherd leads the celebration.
And, of course, the end of v7 is just pure sarcasm - Jesus couldn't have been talking about them because they were so holy they didn't need to repent.  Pure sarcasm.

Self-righteous people are deluded into thinking they don't need to repent.
On the other hand, there are those who are lost, and know it. They're lost, they're desperate, and they need to be rescued by the Good Shepherd, who rejoices over them when they are found.

Christ rejoices over all lost sinners who are found - that's the accurate worldview.

Have you acknowledged your lostness?  Have you been found?  Is God rejoicing over you?

And, are we, who have been found, doing our part to participate in God's joy of finding lost sheep?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 15:8-10
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Timothy 3, Proverbs 22, Isaiah 53-54

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