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New Hope Café on Castleton Ave. in Staten Island, New York –Evening Concert on 11/12/2011
(edited August 2019)
Verses 1-2: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
We can see here that in His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ was accused of being guilty by association. Publicans (corrupt public officials) and other “sinners” came into His sphere of ministry and influence. Apparently, He was not afraid to be associated with them.
The sad thing back then (and today, by the way) is that the Pharisees (religious conservatives) and the scribes (Bible and legal scholars) were all sinners too, but they did not realize it.
Verse 3: “And he spake this parable unto them, saying,”
A parable is a round-about story. Usually used in the face of true ignorance or maybe with a child who can’t understand something at first or very easily.
A parable teaches us something new by comparing it to something we already know. The first parable relates to lost sheep. Many of us have compassion for animals in distress:
Verses 4-7: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Nashville, and Hollywood all are focusing today on the larger percentages of people out there to consume products and generate income. The Church must not function in that mode. Christ says give EVERY segment of our population and every individual our full attention whenever possible. The 1% mattered to Christ and should to us!
This is hard to understand, so Jesus offers another parable based on the fact that most of us value material possessions and money:
Verses 8-10: “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
The Church today has some missing “coins.” Are you among the missing or do you know those who are spiritually “lost” today? Like the lady in the parable and her lost coin, we need to diligently seek out the lost and missing in action today in this great spiritual battle between good and evil. Of course we need to nurture and maintain our own spiritual health along the way, but look closely again at verses 7 and 10!
Well, the religious crowd that Jesus is trying to teach still must not be getting it, so He tries another story. This is more direct, not about animals or coins, but a parable about people:
Verses 11-24: “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
Who is eligible to repent and come to Christ? Those who have only sinned slightly? Those who are pretty good in their outward conduct? That’s not what Christ taught. ANYONE may come to Christ today and be eternally saved…ANYONE. That doesn’t mean they will.
One old preacher used to call this story the “Parable of the Prodigal Sons.” Look at the reaction of the other son in this story:
Verses 25-30: “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.” And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
This parable teaches more than just the danger of dining with the pigs like the first son did. It’s about having the wrong attitude about the sins of others. It’s about not remembering from whence you have come---no matter how many years you have been saved!
Like the father in this story, Our God loves sinners. Yes, He hates the deeds, He hates the darkness, He hates the destruction sin causes, but He LOVES us. ALL of us, today.
Here is the attitude we should have:
Verses 31-32: “And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
Few of the scribes and Pharisees EVER understood this. They proceeded to try to silence Christ and His ministry. They did not want to see themselves as equal to those they considered unworthy of God’s love. If you struggle with this today as I do at times (looking down my long nose at those I consider to be less spiritual than me), then go and get into chapter 16 of the Book of Luke. Here Jesus begins to teach His own followers that one of the worst sins is to withhold the Gospel from those we judge to be undeserving of salvation.
We MUST attempt to love everyone as God does. I’m not saying it’s easy or even possible in our own strength. But we were never called to be a panel of judges. We are Christ’s servants, and He loves sinners.