You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 10, 2022.

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity is on September 11, 2022.

My previous entry for this Sunday was for the readings for the Feast of the Holy Cross.

The standard readings for Year C and the exegesis on Luke 15:1-10 follow.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The Lord passes judgement on His people for their sins by way of an invasion by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans.

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

4:11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse–

4:12 a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.

4:22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”

4:23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.

4:24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.

4:25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled.

4:26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.

4:27 For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.

4:28 Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Psalm

In this Psalm, David recognises the sin inherent in mankind and prays in joyful expectation that God will deliver Israel.

Psalm 14

14:1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.

14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.

14:3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.

14:4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD?

14:5 There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous.

14:6 You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.

14:7 O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

First reading – alternate

The Lord is exceedingly angry at the calf-worshipping Israelites, but Moses implores Him to relent on a fierce judgement.

Exodus 32:7-14

32:7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;

32:8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'”

32:9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.

32:10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

32:12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.

32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

32:14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm – alternate

This penitential Psalm which David wrote will be familiar to many and confirms the doctrine of Original Sin (verse 5).

Psalm 51:1-10

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

51:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

51:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

51:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

51:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Epistle

Paul expresses his gratitude for being saved from his sins by faith through grace in Christ Jesus. Verse 15 is regularly recited in the Anglican 1662 Book of Common prayer Communion liturgy.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

1:12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service,

1:13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1:15 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.

1:16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.

1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel

Through these short parables, Jesus tells the Pharisees that He came to save sinners, the spiritually lost.

Luke 15:1-10

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.

15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

15:3 So he told them this parable:

15:4 “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?

15:5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.

15:6 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.’

15:7 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.

15:8 “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?

15:9 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.’

15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Before going into the Gospel, the rest of today’s readings have a common theme of sin and salvation.

Unknowingly, John MacArthur, whose church does not follow the Lectionary, referred to this theme by mentioning Psalm 51, today’s alternate Psalm:

You remember in Psalm 51, David coming out of his terrible sin, asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. God rejoices. God experiences joy. And if you ask yourself in one of those moments when you’re musing about why things are the way they are in the world and why there was a Fall and why there is salvation and why God is redeeming people through human history, you could ultimately come to the point: because it gives Him such joy. God delights in the recovery of sinners. And God shares that delight with all the holy angels and all the redeemed and glorified saints. And part of eternal rejoicing in heaven is going to be this endless chorus of hallelujahs because we have been redeemed. God finds His joy in the recovery of lost sinners.

MacArthur also reflects on God’s patience mixed in with judgement over the Israelites, as we see in our reading from Exodus. MacArthur discusses Deuteronomy in the same context:

Go back in the Old Testament to the book of Deuteronomy, the last of the five books of Moses, and the 30th chapter. God has not been reluctant to share with us the source of His joy. In the prior chapters in Deuteronomy, God told the children of Israel, who had now come into the land, that if they were obedient, they would be blessed and if they were disobedient, they would be cursed. And God knew which they would choose. And so in chapter 30 He writes, “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you,” and by the way, these are the writings of Moses, but the words of the Lord God Himself, “so it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you…” He’s saying, some day when you wake up and take a look at the curses that you have endured and, verse 2, “and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity and have compassion on you and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” And He’s talking about spiritual life and salvation and regeneration and a new creation. Verse 8 says, “And you will again obey the Lord and observe His commandments which I command you this day.” And then listen to verse 9. “Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body…the offspring of your cattle…the produce of your ground.” Why? “For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good just as He rejoiced over your fathers if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in the book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” We’re not talking about external religion, we’re not talking about superficiality, we’re not talking about a reinstitution of ceremony; we’re talking about a transformation and salvation. What brings the Lord joy? It is the recovery of the lost. It is the salvation of sinners.

Now on to today’s reading.

As I have mentioned over the past few weeks, Luke’s accounts of our Lord’s teachings appear in Luke 9 and continue through Luke 19. We are now in Luke 15. These teaching accounts represent what Jesus did during the final six months of His ministry.

MacArthur describes the atmosphere that Jesus encountered at this time:

Now, as we come to chapter 15, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem He’s been moving that direction since chapter 9 verse 51.  He is headed toward Jerusalem very soon.  And there the hurricane of hatred will hit Him with its full force.  Its winds are increasing in intensity.  They are being propelled by the breath of the Pharisees and scribes whose hostility continues to increase.  And their hostility is collecting hostility among the people they’re influencing. 

Two weeks ago, on the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, we had a story from Luke 14:1, 7-14 about our Lord’s breaking bread with Pharisees who witnessed His healing of a man with dropsy (oedema). Jesus then went on to talk about not grabbing the best seat at the table, lest the host ask one to take a lesser seat.

Today, Luke recounts that Jesus is again involved with a pharisaical controversy about dining, this time with tax collectors and sinners. Pharisees, the self-righteous, do not understand that He came to save lost souls.

Luke tells us that tax collectors and sinners were gathering to hear Jesus teach (verse 1).

Matthew Henry explains the deeply rooted hostility that the Jews had towards their own who became tax collectors, i.e. part of the Roman system. Matthew the Apostle was one such man:

Great multitudes of Jews went with him (ch. 14 25), with such an assurance of admission into the kingdom of God that he found it requisite to say that to them which would shake their vain hopes. Here multitudes of publicans and sinners drew near to him, with a humble modest fear of being rejected by him, and to them he found it requisite to give encouragement, especially because there were some haughty supercilious people that frowned upon them. The publicans, who collected the tribute paid to the Romans, were perhaps some of them bad men, but they were all industriously put into an ill name, because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office. They are sometimes ranked with harlots (Matt 21 32); here and elsewhere with sinners, such as were openly vicious, that traded with harlots, known rakes.

The Pharisees and the scribes, the latter of whom were religious lawyers, grumbled — complained — saying that Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them (verse 2).

MacArthur explained how the Pharisees viewed a meal, which they took only with their own:

Let me tell you how bad this was.  If a Pharisee…you had to hire…a Pharisee would hire somebody to clean his house or to grind flour.  That would be somebody among the common people, the Am HaAretz.  And the rabbinic law says that if you hire an Am HaAretz to grind your flour, you have a lady in there grinding flour in your house, if she’s in your house grinding flour, as soon as she stops grinding, your house is unclean.  As long as she’s grinding, it’s clean.  As soon as she stops, it’s unclean.  Now, if you have two ladies grinding flour and one stops and the other keeps going, the house is not unclean, but anything the first lady can touch is unclean.  This was developed and actually codified in A.D. 200 in the Mishnah, but was traditional through the years before.  You say, well, where in the world did they get these ideas?  Where did they get this from?  Well, they got it from their own self-righteousness and then they looked in the Scriptures to find verses that they could twist and pervert.  Here’s one, for example, that they loved to use. Psalm 1, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners.”  I mean, they completely perverted that.  They loved to take Proverbs 1, familiar words, where verse 15 says, “My son, do not walk in the way with them.  Keep your feet from their path.”  They do wickedness.  They do evil.  It was just a twisting of Scripture.  They loved to use Isaiah 52:11“Touch nothing unclean.  Go out of the midst…purify yourselves.”  They pushed that to the absolute extreme.  And it showed up everywhere but, in particular, where they ate.  Now, eating for them started out complex.  They had to have all this kind of kosher diet.  And they had taken what the Old Testament indicated was to be a proper Jewish diet and they had expanded it and embellished it.  And it got to the point where — this is an interesting thing — they couldn’t eat food that hadn’t been tithedThey couldn’t eat ten beans; they could only eat nine and one had to be given to the priest at the temple.  I mean, it got down to the…You know, Jesus said, you tithe the mint and the anise and the cumin and all those little herbs.  Sure, because they couldn’t eat anything that didn’t get tithed.  That’s how ridiculously legalistic they were.  The Babylonian Talmud lists things unbecoming to a holy Jew and one is to recline at a table with an Am HaAretz, a lowlife.  Here’s one that just blew my mind.  Pharisees and scribes could not sit on opposite sides of a dining room, you know, at some event or some restaurant or some occasion.  They couldn’t sit on the opposite side of the dining room if anywhere in the dining room, even on the far opposite side, if somebody on the opposite side was eating meat and somebody else was eating cheese.  Now, you remember that in the kosher diet you don’t mix milk and meat.  And that comes from the Old Testament law about not boiling a calf in its own milk.  So one guy could eat all the cheese he wanted.  Another guy could eat all the meat he wanted.  That wasn’t the issue.  You got one guy eating meat and one guy eating cheese.  But a Pharisee would have to get up and leave, because if he saw one guy eating meat and one guy eating cheese, they would mix in his mind and he would be guilty of defilement for having mixed milk with meat.  Now, that’s what they were thinking.  The rabbinic law said you cannot even mix milk and meat in your mind.  You couldn’t touch the clothes of an Am HaAretz.  You couldn’t sell anything to one.  You couldn’t be a guest of one in their homes.  You couldn’t have one for a guest.  They were not ever together.  You say, well, didn’t the Jews give alms?  Didn’t they give money to the poor?  Sure.  They would send food to the poor; they wouldn’t eat with them.  So here comes Jesus.  He doesn’t care about any of that.  He just receives the people who want to hear what He has to say.  He doesn’t care about their stupid legalism.  And they’re just irate.  And so it says in verse 2, “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble.”  That is an onomatopoeic word in Greek.  Diagogguzō, bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl-bl.  You know, an onomatopoeic word is a word that sounds like its meaning.  Mumble, mumble, murmur, murmur, they send this murmur around.  This man receives sinners and eats with them.  He doesn’t just socialize; he eats.  But the operative word there is receives. 

MacArthur elaborates and gives us the Greek word for ‘welcome’ or ‘receive’ in verse 2:

In this text, that hostility again surfaces and it’s in verses 1 and 2.  All the tax gatherers and the sinners were coming near to listen to Him.  And “both the Pharisees and the scribes began to murmur” or grumble, “saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.'”  That was an outrage to them.  As the self-appointed righteous of Israel they were the final court on everybody.  They were the self-appointed judges of everybody.  They rendered all the verdicts.  It was Jesus condemning them when He said, “Judge not.”  Who made you the judge?  But they were the self-appointed judges of everyone including Jesus.  And their judgment was Jesus was doing what no person who represents God would ever do, hanging around the unrighteous, the wicked.  Their regular criticism was always associated with the fact that He is spending His time with the unscrupulous and despised collaborators with Rome who bought tax franchises and extorted money out of the Jewish people, therefore traitors to their people and their religion and their God, in their view.  They were equally, if not more outraged that He ate with sinners.  “Sinners” is a word used 13 times by Luke, always with the same meaning.  It means moral lawbreakers: adulterers, prostitutes, the scum, the riff-raff.  For them, Jesus’ association with these kinds of people was all they needed to convince everybody else that He was not of God.  And the language in verse 2 is interesting.  “This man receives sinners,” they said.  Not dechomai, the simple word, “to receive,” but prosdechomai, which is the kind of reception that’s intensified that you would have for somebody who’s a member of your family.  In fact, it’s that very word that Paul uses in Romans 16:1, 2, “I commend to you our sister, Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea. Receive her in the Lord.”  Embrace her as a sister in Christ.  Jesus doesn’t just allow them around; He embraces them.  He puts His arms around them.  He pulls them in like they were family.  Ahhh, this is proof-positive whose family He belongs to.  Then He eats with them And this is most outrageous because in the ancient Near East and Middle East, eating with somebody was a sign of approval and affirmation, particularly if you were a rabbi or a Pharisee or a spiritual leader The rabbis used to say they ate with people and whenever they ate with anybody, they conveyed to that person affirmation and spiritual blessing.  So Jesus eating with sinners was a way to give approval to them in their view.  And so here they are again making the same chronic complaint against Jesus completely misunderstanding the heart of God for sinners. 

Knowing what the Pharisees and scribes were saying, Jesus opened with a parable (verse 3), the first of two.

Of the parables Jesus told here and of the Prodigal Son which immediately follows today’s reading, MacArthur says:

And Jesus answers their murmurings with three stories.  The first two are prologue and the main story starts in verse 11, the one that we know as, “The Prodigal Son,” the longest parable Jesus ever taught and really full and rich as we will see.  But He opens up His response to them with a little prologue from verses 4 to 10 in which He tells two simple stories …

In all these parables I think our Lord hits the high point. These are the richest parables. This is the pinnacle. And I will give you this; they are gospel parables. OK? They are invitations to salvation. They really are. They’re about salvation. And just telling a story about salvation, about being lost, being found, being restored and being celebrated by God, the angels and the redeemed, just telling that story in itself is an invitation for others to participate in that great reality.

In telling the first parable, Jesus asked which one of the scribes and Pharisees, having 100 sheep and losing one does not leave the other 99 in the wilderness and search for the lost one until he finds it (verse 4).

Jesus knew that they would find it insulting to have to imagine themselves as shepherds, the lowest of the low.

MacArthur explains:

Shepherds, you remember, were the lowest people. They were the lowest of the Am Ha’Aretz, the people of the earth, the earthy people, the lowlife, the scum, the unacceptable, the outcasts, the unclean in the society of the Jews.  Of all the legitimate labors, they were at the bottom.  That’s what made the appearance of the angels to announce the arrival of Messiah to shepherds so astonishing, rather than to the religious elite.  Jesus was always doing what He needed to do to humble because God gives grace to the humble.  And He was always striking at the self-righteous pride of the false leaders of Israel.  And so what He says to them is so interesting.  “What man among you, if he has 100 sheep and has lost one of them…”  This is offensive to them because He speaks to them as if they were the shepherd in the story.  Which one of you?  That in itself was an offense because they would then have to think of themselves as shepherds.  They didn’t want any pollution on their bodies and so they stayed away from these kinds of people.  But they also, as I pointed out last time, didn’t like any pollution in their minds.  And the very thought of putting them in the role of a shepherd would be very offensive to them.  No law-abiding Jew, no Jew of any respectability, no Jew who was a Pharisee or a scribe would ever become a shepherd, nor would any Pharisee or scribe even like to think of himself hypothetically as if he were a shepherd.  That would be demeaning and unclean in their minds.

Even though the Old Testament made reference to shepherds, Moses having been one himself, over time, the occupation was seen as being dirty:

But even though they would still give honor to God and see a connection there and still give honor to Moses, their great leader, they actually despised shepherds, real shepherds who lived with sheep, the dirtiest of all animals. And they had established in Jewish society that anybody who was a shepherd was unclean. According to Jeremias, a historian, they were believed to be dishonest. Basically, as a lot, they were dishonest. They were thieves. They encroached on land that wasn’t theirs to feed their sheep. Because they took a role that put them at the lowest level, they tended to be the lowest level of people who had the least expectation for themselves and they tended to live up to their reputation. And, certainly, no Pharisee would ever, ever be a shepherd, nor would he like to even conceive of himself in a hypothetical sense as a shepherd. But they can’t help that because Jesus has put them in the story by the rhetorical question. And so, now, whether they are offended or not, they’re in the story and they’re going to have to deal with the ethical issue that arises. What man among you, if you were the shepherd, and you had a 100 sheep and lost one of them …

Jesus said that when the sheep is found, the man who found it puts it around his shoulders and rejoices (verse 5).

Even the scribes and Pharisees understood enough about rural life to know that when a sheep goes missing, a shepherd goes out to find it, which was an arduous task, as MacArthur says:

You go and you find that lost sheep. Lost sheep get the attention of the shepherd. Lost sheep, by the way, are in grave danger. Sheep are stupid. They are defenseless. Do you know a sheep has no self-defense mechanism? None, zero. If they fall over on their side, they can’t get up by themselves. They are hopeless and helpless. So the sheep that’s wandered off would be in danger from predators, in danger from a fall, from exhaustion, from dehydration. The land is rugged. It is demanding. Rocks are everywhere. All kinds of potential issues could beset that lost sheep. We’re told by people who work with sheep in the Middle East that when sheep become afraid — and they do, they get very nervous and very fearful — they lie down and die. That’s right. They can’t get up. They become so despondent and discouraged. The Pharisees knew all that. And they knew the shepherd had to go and do whatever was necessary. It wouldn’t be easy. Sheep look a lot like rocks. A dirty sheep is about the same color as rocks in the land of Israel and there are so many of those the rabbi said when God distributed the rocks He made a mistake and dumped them all in Israel. So the Pharisees and the scribes would buy into the story and they would understand the necessity of the action that the shepherd took.

Jesus finished the parable by saying that the man who found his lost sheep would naturally call his friends and neighbours together to rejoice with him (verse 6).

MacArthur elaborates on the value of sheep, managed at that time by a village co-operative and shepherds from that village:

And everybody would understand that, too. He’s found the sheep. The sheep has value. The sheep provides wool. Wool provides clothing. And sheep provide wool year after year after year after year to clothe. And so he finds the sheep helplessly, hopelessly, perhaps, nearly lifelessly, lying somewhere. And he picks it up and puts it on the back of his neck and rejoices, even though he knows the hard part is ahead. It’s one thing to look for the sheep; it’s something else, having found the sheep, to go back over the same track, carrying the sheep. But he’s rejoicing as he starts the hard part, going back home where the rest of the flock has, by now, been taken, which means it’s night. And he has to go back, as it were, in the darkness.

… He has some private joy going on on the way back. But verse 6 says, “When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'” … After an … arduous and demanding journey over the rugged land bearing the full weight of that sheep, he’s finally home. The Pharisees and scribes would, of course, know the scene well. They lived all over the land and the villages and towns. And they would know he did the right thing. And they would also understand his joy and they would also understand the celebration when he came back. The family and the village would have been waiting, wondering if he would find the sheep and in what condition he would find the sheep. The old men in the village, typically, we are told, would sit somewhere in the center of the village at the end of the day and rehearse all the stories and tell all the tales and speak of the things that happened that day as people commonly do even today. These would be people who shared in the ownership of the flock, perhaps. And they wanted to hear that the sheep was found. That was the news they longed to hear. And so it would become a wonderful event of joy in the village when the shepherd showed up with the sheep.

Henry gives us the spiritual application of this parable:

there is a particular care to be taken of this lost sheep; and though he has a hundred sheep, a considerable flock, yet he will not lose that one, but he goes after it, and shows abundance of care, [1.] In finding it out. He follows it, enquiring after it, and looking about for it, until he finds it. God follows backsliding sinners with the calls of his word and the strivings of his Spirit, until at length they are wrought upon to think of returning. [2.] In bringing it home. Though he finds it weary, and perhaps worried and worn away with its wanderings, and not able to bear being driven home, yet he does not leave it to perish, and say, It is not wroth carrying home; but lays it on his shoulders, and, with a great deal of tenderness and labour, brings it to the fold. This is very applicable to the great work of our redemption. Mankind were gone astray, Isa 53 6. The value of the whole race to God was not so much as that of one sheep to him that had a hundred; what loss would it have been to God if they had all been left to perish? There is a world of holy angels that are as the ninety-nine sheep, a noble flock; yet God sends his Son to seek and save that which was lost, ch. 19 10. Christ is said to gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, denoting his pity and tenderness towards poor sinners; here he is said to bear them upon his shoulders, denoting the power wherewith he supports and bears them up; those can never perish whom he carries upon his shoulders.

Jesus concluded by saying that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance (verse 7).

MacArthur tells us that Jesus was calling out the scribes and Pharisees for their self-righteousness:

That last line is pure sarcasm. Of course, we couldn’t be talking about you, because you don’t need to repent. The sinner who repents is like the sheep: helpless, understands his helplessness, danger, weakness, need, desperation, and recognizes only a hope for life and a hope for rescue and trusts himself into the arms of the Great Shepherd, and rests fully on His back until He brings him home. That’s in stark contrast to the ninety-nine righteous persons who don’t need to repent. They’re already holy. What a privilege it is for us to participate in the divine recovery process. The Pharisees and the scribes had nothing to do with the purposes of God, nothing to do with the work of God. They were deluded into thinking they needed no repentance. They are the ninety-nine who are the self-righteous, self-made legalists who know nothing of God. They are saying with the Pharisee in Luke 18, I thank you that I am not like these vile lowlifes. On the other hand, there are those who are lost and they know they’re lost. They’re desperate. They’re carried home. And then an amazing thing: They become the tools and the instruments and the means by which the Great Shepherd continues to rescue other lost sheep.

Also:

What hypocrites the scribes and Pharisees were! They know nothing of God. They know nothing of shepherding. Quickly, with that application, the whole story would recycle in their minds. And they would be exposed and indicted and the knife would go in and it would go in deep. Applauding an outcast shepherd for doing what is the rightful duty of a shepherd to save the life of an unclean, stupid animal while condemning the Great Shepherd for rescuing unclean sinners. The sad reality is, of course, in Israel, as everywhere, like people, like priests. They had no shepherds. They had no leaders. They knew nothing of the heart of God, nothing of divine shepherding. In fact, they were so far from God that when He sent His own Great Shepherd, they killed Him.

Jesus then began His second parable, about a woman who, in attempting to find a lost coin among her ten silver coins, lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully for it (verse 8).

MacArthur tells us how offensive it is for the Pharisees and scribes to imagine themselves not only as a woman but a poor one, too:

Jesus loved to assault their foolish pride.  And this, if anything, is worse.  Now He makes them act in their minds as if they are not a shepherd but a…a woman.  Oh, horror of all horrors.  He says to them, “Or what woman.” Yikes!  This would be viewed as an absolute, outright insult to address Pharisees and scribes and ask them to put themselves in a woman’s place to evaluate how a woman would think and how she would behave.  Shepherds were unclean and women were un-respected.  In fact, in the Middle Eastern culture, it was an insult to compare a male audience to a woman Here again, Jesus just sweeps away their foolish pride; does it mercifully since God only gives grace to the humble, and sooner or later they’re going to have to be humbled if they’re ever going to come into His kingdom.  And by the way, while the Pharisees didn’t want to be compared to a woman, for sure, God doesn’t mind being compared to a woman.  We think of God in male terms and, of course, that’s the way He presents Himself, as a Father, the masculine identity, the masculine pronoun.  But there are many times in the Word of God when God presents Himself as analogous to a woman.  And I’ll give you one that just combines both of them.  Listen to Psalm 23.  “The Lord is my Shepherd.”  Well, we understand that.  That’s a male kind of analogy.  But this Psalm also says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  Can I tell you something about ancient culture?  The men didn’t set the table and fix the meal.  In Psalm 23, God is both the Shepherd who leads His sheep and God is the woman who prepares the meal.  It shouldn’t surprise us that in the 13th chapter of Luke and the 34th verse, Jesus, speaking as God says, “How often I wanted to gather your children together like a hen gathers her brood.”  That’s a picture of a mother hen.  That’s a picture of a mother hen picturing a mother picturing Jesus.  I wanted to gather you like a mother gathers her children.  And there are numerous other occasions in Scripture where God is represented as analogous to the conduct, the behavior of a woman.  But women, in this period of time, in the time that Jesus was on the earth from about 200 B. C. to 200 A.D., 400 years in there, weren’t even taught the law of God That’s how much disdain there was for women.  The Pharisees led that parade.  They got up every day and several times said, “I thank you, oh God, that I’m not a woman.  They wouldn’t be a shepherd and they certainly wouldn’t be a woman.  So Jesus said to them, “What if you were a shepherd and what if you were a woman?  What would you do?”  And He pushes them into the mental place to have to think like a shepherd and think like a woman and, thus, they are intellectually being defiled.  They…They would be outraged by this but they couldn’t avoid it.  Jesus distressed and disturbed their prejudices greatly.

The woman’s house would have been basic:

… the setting, again, is village life.  Can I just take you back?  You’re in a little Middle Eastern village in the land of Israel, a little dirt road.  And along the little dirt road in a small little village there’s some…some little earth brick houses made out of bricks with mud and straw and the little houses are along the road and the little road down the middle.  That was the little village.  They would know this very, very well.  The picture is of a simple people, a poor people who face a serious matter in the story.  This woman has a big problem.  She loses something of great value.  They didn’t have a lot of money.  In fact, they didn’t use money the way we use money today.  They lived in a bartering society as many people have throughout history and some even do today.  They swapped this or that for what they needed, even their own service and their own labor.  And so money was not distributed and dispensed at the pace that it is for us.  And a little bit of money, relatively, could go a long way

Picture your little village, okay.  A dusty road somewhere in Judea, Israel, a little village, a little home with four walls, a little low doorway, no windows, maybe a slit above eye level to let the smoke out from the fire inside and maybe cause a little ventilation, floors made out of dirt, in some parts of Israel, black basalt dirt and the floor is hard and yet dusty on the surface.  There are cracks, there’s dust, there’s debris.  This woman is in this little house and she’s lost one of her ten silver coins.  These silver coins would be about 4.3 grams of silver.  The Greeks called them a drachma and the Romans called them a denarius and they would be a day’s wage.

Therefore, when the woman finds her lost silver coin, she calls her friends and neighbours over to rejoice with her (verse 9).

MacArthur says these friends and neighbours would have been women:

Here, the word “friend,” philos, and the word “neighbor,” geitnas, are both in the feminine She calls her lady friends.  She calls her lady friends.  That was pretty typical.  Men stayed with men in that culture and women with women.  They were very close in the little village.  They all knew each other.  Everybody’s suffering would be everybody’s suffering and everybody’s joy would be everybody’s joy.  And so she calls her lady friends together and they have this wonderful little party because she has found what she lost And the point to the Pharisees is, you understand that, right.  This is perfectly clear.  Of course they would buy into the story.  They would buy into the ethical response of the woman.  She did exactly what she should have done.  It’s what I would have done if I were a woman, horror of horrors.

Jesus concluded by saying that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (verse 10).

God’s angels, of course, are holy, yet they share in His joy over the repentance of a lost, miserable sinner, as should we.

Henry explains the power of God’s grace in conversion:

Not but that it is best not to go astray; but the grace of God, both in the power and the pity of that grace, is more manifested in the reducing of great sinners than in the conducting of those that never went astray. And many times those that have been great sinners before their conversion prove more eminently and zealously good after, of which Paul is an instance, and therefore in him God was greatly glorified, Gal 1 24. They to whom much is forgiven will love much. It is spoken after the manner of men. We are moved with a more sensible joy for the recovery of what we had lost than for the continuance of what we had always enjoyed, for health out of sickness than for health without sickness. It is as life from the dead. A constant course of religion may in itself be more valuable, and yet a sudden return from an evil course and way of sin may yield a more surprising pleasure. Now if there is such joy in heaven, for the conversion of sinners, then the Pharisees were very much strangers to a heavenly spirit, who did all they could to hinder it and were grieved at it, and who were exasperated at Christ when he was doing a piece of work that was of all others most grateful to Heaven.

In closing, did you know that the cross was not the earliest Christian symbol? It was, in fact, a shepherd with a sheep around his shoulders.

MacArthur gives us the history and says these are still widely available in artisan shops in Israel:

in early Christianity believers didn’t use a cross. Once in awhile they used a sign of a fish but that was more in the Gentile world. Early Christians used the image of a shepherd with a sheep on his neck. That was the earliest Christian symbol, beautiful. In fact, if you’ve ever been to Israel and you’ve gone to all those little stores they take you to where they’ve got all kinds of things carved out of olive wood. You find that one thing appears there perhaps as much or more than anything else and it is little wooden carvings of shepherd…of a shepherd with a sheep around his neck. In fact, as I was thinking this through this week, I looked above me and there’s a little shelf over my little window in my desk where I study and sure enough there was one of those shepherd with an oversized sheep around his neck. People in that day, probably, only weighed about 130 pounds, maybe. That was the early symbol because the early church understood the meaning here of being carried by Christ back to the Father’s presence. And in ancient art…one of the things…if you follow that through a little bit…in ancient art, these were very, very common. Next time, if you get an opportunity to go to Israel, look around and you’ll find them. In fact, we might start a trend. Forget wearing a cross and start wearing a shepherd with a sheep around his neck. People are going to say, what is that? And you’re going to say, He found me when I was lost and He carried me to the Father. But in ancient art they did an interesting thing and I saw some of the imagery of this. Whenever they would do this, very frequently they would make the sheep disproportionately large. And when I first saw things like that through the years I thought, well, that’s kind of out of whack. You know, I’m not into extreme things. I like art to look like reality. And I used to wonder about why…why did they make a sheep almost as large as the man? And the point was they were exaggerating that. They created a disproportionately large sheep deliberately to convey the extraordinary difficulty and effort and sacrifice of the Good Shepherd in bringing us home. Well, that’s pretty magnificent stuff but as magnificent as it is, it’s still not the main point of the story. It doesn’t say, I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance because of the work of a…He’s not rejoicing because only of the work of Christ. He’s not rejoicing only because a sinner is delivered from sin. The whole joy of heaven is predicated on the fact that God is filled with joy. Sure, it all fits together, but our joy should come from God’s joy. Why do I evangelize? Satisfy the work of Christ, yes, to bring joy to the sinner. But even beyond that, the transcendent motivation for our evangelism is that we can be instruments in the joy of God. You know, that is just such an overwhelming thought to me because, as a Christian, you’re the same way that I am, I know. You spend most of your time grieving, because you disappoint God. Right? I mean, it gets old. And the older you get, the longer is your track record of disappointments. Something to be said for being young, you don’t have as many failures to deal with. You think God must be unhappy with me. I must make God sad every day. But here, I can participate in the joy of God and I can not only make God rejoice, but all of Heaven rejoice if I allow myself to be an instrument through which the Great Shepherd recovers the lost. What a glorious way to view your life. This is the Great Commission.

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

Incidentally, this is the first Sunday in 70 years that we will not be praying for the Queen as sovereign in church. I will be saying an extra prayer for all clergy in the UK and the Commonwealth who need to remember saying ‘Charles’, the ‘King’ and use all the masculine pronouns. Old habits die hard.

Let us rejoice for the long, quiet and godly tenure we enjoyed under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. God truly blessed us. May she rest in peace with her Lord.

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