“The Pharisees and scribes grumbled” against Jesus. Their complaint: “This man receives sinners.” His response to their proud anger came through three related parables about recovering something that had been “lost.”
In the first a shepherd brings a wandering sheep back to the flock. The story surprises us. Would we leave the “ninety-nine in the open country” in order to find a solitary little lamb? When all were secure in the fold, would we celebrate with “friends” and “neighbors” about the result? We read a similar jarring detail in the second account. This time a woman who had “ten silver coins” is suddenly missing one. Why would she call together everyone and spend her funds on a party just because she recovered a day’s wages?
The third tale is about a son. He left the family home to pursue his own agenda, demanding his share of the inheritance as if his father were no longer alive. When he finally descended into abject poverty and despair, “he came to himself,” settling on a plan to return to his father as a worker rather than as a precious child. He instead found a patriarch at home who had never stopped loving him. His dad saw the youth while he was “still a long way off,” and he “felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
But there was a second young man in the family who was not at all happy. Like the proud religious leaders of the Jews, he would not celebrate about the arrival of someone who was such a covenant breaker. He refused to be moved by the truth that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who need no repentance.”
Jesus receives the unworthy as His beloved ones because He is the King of heavenly love. He has Jehovah’s joy for wanderers who turn from wickedness and find peace and acceptance together with all those who would call upon the Name of the Lord.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, You love the lost while we too frequently prefer ourselves above everyone else. Turn us from sin and take away our angry self-righteousness. Work within us a sweet generosity of heart so that we will be willing to be gracious and forgive others. We have sinned against You and are not worthy to be called Your children. Nonetheless You receive us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. We are forever grateful that You have rescued us. Pardon our transgressions and bring us to our eternal home.