Searching for the Lost
JESUS is eager to seek and find those who will humbly serve God. So he searches out and talks to everyone about the Kingdom, including notorious sinners. Such persons now draw near to listen to him.
Observing this, the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for keeping company with people whom they consider unworthy. They mutter: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” How far beneath their dignity that is! The Pharisees and scribes treat common people like dirt under their feet. In fact, they use the Hebrew expression ‛am ha·’aʹrets, “people of the land [earth],” to show the disdain they have for such ones.
On the other hand, Jesus treats everyone with dignity, kindness, and compassion. As a result, many of these lowly ones, including persons who are well-known for practicing wrongdoing, are eager to listen to him. But what of the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus for expending efforts in behalf of those they consider unworthy?
Jesus answers their objection by using an illustration. He speaks from the Pharisees’ own viewpoint, as though they are righteous and are safe in the fold of God, while the despicable ‛am ha·’aʹrets have gone astray and are in a lost state. Listen as he asks:
“What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’”
Jesus then makes the application of his story, explaining: “I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”
The Pharisees consider themselves to be righteous and thus to have no need of repentance. When some of them criticized Jesus a couple of years earlier for eating with tax collectors and sinners, he told them: “I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” The self-righteous Pharisees, who fail to see their need to repent, bring no joy in heaven. But truly repentant sinners do.
To make doubly strong the point that the restoration of lost sinners is a cause for great rejoicing, Jesus relates another illustration. He says: “What woman with ten drachma coins, if she loses one drachma coin, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it she calls the women who are her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the drachma coin that I lost.’”
Jesus then gives a similar application. He goes on to say: “Thus, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”
How remarkable this loving concern of God’s angels for the restoration of lost sinners! Especially is this so since these once lowly, despised ‛am ha·’aʹrets eventually come into line for membership in God’s heavenly Kingdom. As a result, they attain a position in heaven higher than that of the angels themselves! But rather than feel jealous or slighted, the angels humbly appreciate that these sinful humans have faced and overcome situations in life that will equip them to serve as sympathetic and merciful heavenly kings and priests. Luke 15:1-10; Matthew 9:13; 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3; Revelation 20:6.
▪ Why does Jesus associate with known sinners, and what criticism does he draw from the Pharisees?
▪ How do the Pharisees view the common people?
▪ What illustrations does Jesus use, and what can we learn from them?
▪ Why is the rejoicing of the angels remarkable?