Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 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.’ 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. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she 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.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
These two parables, plus the introduction about “tax collectors and sinners gathering to hear him” (verse 1) make up a lesson about our need for repentance and the welcoming forgiveness God offers. Jesus shares these to bring our attention to a relatively common occurrence of something important being lost and then found, and how much larger should be the concern over our brothers and sisters who may be lost.
Too often we focus on the what and how much, valuing our possessions more than our connection with God and others. Jesus uses these examples to show us that if we are so diligent in our search for lost things, how much more diligent should we be in saving those people who are wandering lost. (And if you want a deep lesson on this, continue to Luke 15:11-32).
There is also a subtle lesson for us all in verse 2 where there are complaints against Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them. He shows through this teaching that when we act this way, we become the lost sinners in need of forgiveness. Jesus tells us to welcome everyone, share God’s love and not to worry about associating with those who, like us, need to repent and be found.
Loving Lord, we are all sinners in need of repentance and acceptance. Help us to see each other with Your eyes and Your love, bringing back the lost. Amen.