2010 Luke’s Gospel
God Rejoices When
One Sinner Repents
Key Verse: 15:31,32 " ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ "
In today’s passage we will learn about God’s unfailing love toward one sinner through three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. God considers one sinner the one that is lost away from his love and protection. We are all sinners and there are so many other sinners in this world and yet God still remembers and searches for each one personally and rejoices greatly over the found one. Let us pray that we may know God’s heart deeply to come back to God our father who loves us so much, and dwell in his love forever and ever through this worship time.
I. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (1-10).
When Jesus was surrounded by the tax collectors and sinners he heard the Pharisees and the teachers of the law mutter, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Because of this Jesus started telling them some parables.
Look at verses 3-4. “Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?’” Each church and ministry has its own strength and focus. Some churches have good examples of power of prayer in healing the sick. Other churches focus on serving the poor in the society. Still, other churches put their efforts to making beautiful and inspiring praises to God. Even though their focus and strength are all different somehow, they are all the work of the Holy Spirit. In our ministry, UBF, we also have something special that other ministries do not have. One of them is to teach the Bible on a one-to-one basis. I grew up in spirit in a conservative Presbyterian church where I studied the Bible in a group, learned about fear of God, and experienced the existence of the Holy Spirit through praying in tongue until I joined UBF ministry when I was a freshman in college. Through one-to-one Bible study with my Bible teacher I came to know Jesus personally. Jesus came to me as my Savior, Creator, and good shepherd through my one-to-one bible teacher’s patience, love, and sacrifice. While I made and maintained a personal relationship with the Bible teacher first, I could learn about the concept of personal relationship with God as the bible teacher showed me good examples of Jesus as a good shepherd to me. I believe everybody here also have the same experience as I have. Through Jesus’ life-giving words in the form of one-to-one Bible study we build up a personal relationship with Jesus. This is a great strength in our ministry. The reason why I mention personal relationship with God through 1:1 Bible study is to understand better the parable of the one lost sheep because the parable displays personal love of God as the 1:1 Bible study does. God cares each one of us personally, not in a group and he treasures us with deep personal love. God never complains that there are so many people who need his love and care; “Gosh, there are so many people whom I have to love. That’s too much.” God’s love is individual, personal and abundant forever. Likewise, our 1:1 Bible study cares each one, not in a group. Each bible teacher tries hard to get to know their bible students personally more and more in order to lead them to Jesus’ deep love. In fact, in the parable having a hundred sheep means you are very rich and you might not remember all their names. Losing one sheep would not be a big deal for you have ninety nine sheep now and soon you will have many more out of reproduction from among the rest of the sheep. But the owner in the parable would leave the ninety nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds. It is because the owner built up personal relationship with every single one. Each one of them was very precious equally to the owner. Like the owner our good shepherd Jesus loves us so much and wants to have personal relationship with each one of us. Jesus never gets tired of making deep love relationship with us. He wants to know you personally more and more, and wants us to know about him more and more deeply. Most of all he knows our name. He calls us each by name, not by group name like JBF. I pray for JBF members to build personal relationship with Jesus through 1:1 Bible study with their bible teacher and follow Jesus as their good shepherd from their youth.
What did he do when he found his sheep? Verses 5-6 say, “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me: I have found my lost sheep.’” To find the lost sheep might not be easy for the owner. He kept searching here and there even though he must be tired and hungry. He did not care about himself but about the one lost and its safety. Finally he found it and he was full of joy. He put it on his shoulders on the way home. Because he was very delightful he wanted to share his joy together with his friends and neighbors. In the middle of the banquet, he shouted, “Rejoice with me: I have found my lost sheep.” This is God’s heart. Again it is explained well in verse 7. Look at verse 7. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God is happy with numerous righteous persons who do not need to repent. But God is happier with one sinner who repents. It’s because God found his lost sheep that he kept looking for with his broken heart. This is the heart of God. I have three children. Each one of them is precious to me. I am very happy with them. Last month I lost one of them for a while leaving her in the hospital because of her serious illness and I became little bit unhappy even though other two children who made me happy stayed with me. Actually I was happy with other two kids. But when I had the lost one back from the hospital and from the illness, I became happier than before because I found my lost sheep and now hold it in my arms. God does not want anyone to be lost, but everyone to repent and be saved. Let us pray we may repent and go into the arms of God and make him happy, and join the heavenly banquet with our heavenly father.
Look at verse 8-9. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” As the one who had lost his sheep and found it was very joyful in the first parable, a woman in the second parable also displays her deep joy when she found her lost silver coin. She was very happy because she found what she had been looking for desperately, which was very valuable to her. The more desperate she was in searching for the lost coin, the more joyful she would be when she found it. The intensive search of this woman expresses God's heart in searching for lost sinners. God will never give up on anyone because he created us. We are an eternal being created in the image of God. He values each one of us. Jesus said in verse 10. "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." God has great joy when lost sinners are found.
II. The parable of the lost son (11-32).
Look at verses 11-12. “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.” This story is very famous as we all know well. I feel like I have nothing to say about it because you might know better than I do. So, let me tell you about the story briefly and think about God’s love toward his lost sons and daughters in the story. The story begins with younger son who claimed his share of father’s estate. According to the Jewish law, the younger son would receive half of what the elder son receives, or one third of the estate. But the thing is that his share of the estate would be distributed when his father dies. Then, what does it mean to his father and what is the younger son thinking about when he said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate?’ The question could sound to the father like this: “I can’t wait any longer to get my money until you die.” It seems the younger son did not care about whether his father dies or not, but only about the money he would be supposed to receive. This story sound really probable and familiar in reality. In 1994 we heard terrible news about a depraved son named Park, Han Sang in
Look at verse 13. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Breaking his father’s heart, he set off for a distant country with a lot of money. But there he squandered his wealth in wild living. With his money what he did was just to waste it by living a wild life-being addicted to alcohol, gambling, party, and sex. It is very common that young people with a lot of money such as celebrities and some million dollar lottery winners become out of control like a runway horse doing all the pleasure-seeking stuffs. They finally ruined their lives completely. Some commit a suicide or get killed. Others lose their family members or friends. Still others get crazy or addicted to alcohol, gambling, and drug. The younger son was not different. He just followed the pattern of this world and ruined his life and his family.
Look at verse 14-16. “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” The younger son spent everything he had, which means he had nothing left in his pocket. He could not believe it for a while. So he desperately searched for any money left somewhere else just like the woman who lost one silver coin. But unlike the woman he could not find any. He stood agape looking up to the sky helplessly. He might have felt dreaming a dream one night. All his party friends disappeared and there was nobody he could turn to for help. To make it worse, there was a severe famine in the country where the younger was having fun for a while. Now he faced tough reality he had never experienced in his life time. As Pinocchio turned into a donkey after a big party in the amusement park, leaving his father’ house, the younger son became like a pig in the pig farm. He even longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating. This tells us that his life hit the bottom of life and there was no way to go for him. And this is the representation of our being without God our father in this world.
Look at verse 17-20a. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.” Up to this point he lived senselessly, without thinking. But when he longed to fill his stomach with pig food, he came to his senses. Sometimes going through hardships and difficulties help us to come back to our senses in middle of a life of depravity. Now, the younger son’s mind was awakened to reality. The things he could not see before were now incredibly obvious to him. When he saw his master, he remembered how his father treated his servants with the abundant food, and how happy they were under his father's care and protection. He remembered many good things about his father that he could not see before. He realized that his father was such a wise, good and generous man. In contrast to his father, he also realized that he was such an ungrateful, unthankful, rebellious and disobedient. He repented of leaving his father's home and his foolish wild living. But he did not stop there. He did not just regret or feeling sorry for what had done. True repentance is turning to God. That is what the lost son did. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Then, he could have committed a suicide thinking he did not deserve to live any more. Or he could have just stayed there and kept ruined his life. But what did he do after he repented? He got up and went to his father’s house boldly as well as humbly, which once he really wanted to leave. Like this lost son, let us come back to God shamelessly and humbly for life even when everything seems to be over against us.
What was the father doing while his younger son was away? The father must have worried about his younger son night and day and prayed for him. He must have looked at the horizon each day to see if his son was coming home. This is how God waits night and day for his lost children to come back home (Ro 10:21).
Look at verse 20b. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." The lost son must have been dirty and smelly. Nobody would come closer to him. But the father did not care about it. He just ran to him and threw his arms around him and kissed him. When the father saw his lost son returning, he was just filled with compassion and just embraced him without saying who’s wrong or who’s right. Although his son broke his heart and made him very sorrowful, when he saw him, he forgot everything because all he cared about was his son’s returning home safely. This is God's heart, which is full of compassion and love. He embraces sinners who are repenting and coming home. God loves us and forgives us unconditionally when we repent and come to him just as we are.
The heart of God is best described in the following verses. Look at verse 21. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." As he had thought before coming home, he wanted to ask his father to hire him as one of his servants. His father however, did not even enter into that discussion. Instead he turned to his servants and said in verses 22-24. "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate." There are no words that can fully describe the degree of the joy of the father as well as the joy of the son. The father restored his son as a son and heir.
The parable could end here, but there was another son, the elder son. In contrast to the younger son, the older brother was always with his father. He had everything. But when his younger brother returned, his real problem was exposed. When he found that there was a celebration for his younger brother's return, he became angry and refused to go in. It is clear that he didn't have any love or compassion toward his brother. In other words, he did not know his father's heart. To a father, when a son rebels and leaves home, he grieves, and nothing will comfort him. Since the day his son left home, the father felt things had never been right at home. But when his younger son came back, it was like a dead son was alive again. The father felt the joy that words cannot describe. The father really wanted his older son to have compassion for his brother, and also experience the joy of welcoming back his brother. So the father pleaded with him, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (31-32). In fact, the older son might have broken his father's heart more than the younger son. The older son was also a lost son, even though he was always with his father physically. Here the older son represents the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who were always at the temple of God but who didn't know God's heart for tax collectors and sinners.
Today, we learned about the heart of God. God values each person preciously. God does not want anyone to be lost. He is still watching and waiting for his lost children to come home. God rejoices most when one sinner repents and returns to him. I pray that we may come to God by repenting and restore love relationship with him, and even participate in his great joy by helping others come back to him with love we receive from our everlasting father.
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