1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 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. 8 "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
"This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
· It’s often said that we are known by the company we keep. This would hold for Jesus as well. The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling because a rabbi, a teacher, was often in the company of those they felt were not worthy of the rabbi’s attention. So they grumbled: "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." They wanted him to spend his time with the “good” people, the “right” people, the “worthy” people… with them.
· It is possible that these folks were concerned about Jesus reputation and how the tax collectors and sinners might destroy it. They also might have been concerned that he wasn’t doing what he should have, that is, spending time with the “right” people, the “righteous” people, those who had not sinned, since that was what a proper rabbi should do: stick with the proper people (where he could be controlled?).
· In the face of this, Jesus relates three parables. The so-called Prodigal Son is our Gospel for next week. In the first two parable, the ones we hear today, the meaning might be easy to catch. How it would be received by the “sinners” and the “righteous” would be quite different.
· In the first parable, a shepherd has 100 sheep and one gets lost. Now I have a degree in Business Management and to me, 1% wastage written off isn’t that bad. However this is not a lesson in business or shepherding. It is a lesson in the Kingdom of God.
· The one lost one is really lost. If we consider the terrain of Judea (the wilderness), the chances are slim to none of finding that one sheep. There are lots of places to hide or to get caught in. There are also wolves, hyenas, even leopards around and they’d be looking for just such a lost sheep. But as I said, this is not a story of actual shepherding. The parable’s shepherd is as concerned for all the other sheep as he is for the lost one; he just HAS to find the lost one… even if it cost him his life.
· In the second parable, the woman has lost one of her ten silver coins and proceeds to turn the house upside down to find it.
· The lost coin – a Greek coin called a drachma – was possibly a day or a half day’s pay for a worker of the time. (In that time, it had the same purchasing power as about $50 today.) Again, she doesn’t wait for the coin to turn up and she doesn’t write off the 10% loss. She aggressively cleans until she finds it… and then throws a party.
· Really now, people just don’t act like that.
· But God does. God seeks out the lost sheep and the lost coin. For the tax collectors and sinners, that must have been such good news! For them to hear that they were cared for that much, that their apparent sin did not hinder the Lord of All Creation from loving them would be such a freeing message.
· They were made in the image of God and God would recovery God’s image in the ones so many considered lost. The “Lost” hear the parables with joy; however, the Pharisees might hear the message with annoyance since their “righteousness” would be challenged.
· There is a lack of understanding here. The so-called sinners might have felt that no grace would reach them, while the so-called righteous might have felt that no grace was needed. Yet they – and we - all need the same grace (and the same amount if it could be measured) to be saved.
· Paul wrote to Timothy: the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. We can’t really comment on Paul’s self-understanding, but the statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is good news to us! Rather than spending time beating ourselves up for our past or spending time wondering why we confess and ask forgiveness since “none of us really sin” as one member of another congregation once said to me, we can rejoice in the grace of salvation. Every… last… one… of us… no matter whom we welcome and eat with.
the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners