Lost: joy

lost_coin_lost_sheepJoy in heaven and on earth? A present participle generally denotes action that occurs at the same time as the main verb. The main verb in the first conclusion (v. 7) is estai a future = “There will be”. The main verb in the second conclusion (v. 10) is ginetai a present = “There is”. So, when a sinner repents, at that moment there is joy in heaven. Will there be joy on earth, then seems to be Jesus’ question.

It would seem that the ways to keep joy out of heaven are: (a) be so righteous that repentance is unnecessary, or (b) be a sinner and fail to repent. However, I don’t think that Jesus’ main point is about joy in heaven, but joy on earth. The joy in heaven is a given. It is the corresponding joy on earth that can be nearly impossible to obtain. The self-righteous, critical, judgmental attitude of the scribes and Pharisees sought to kill the joy of Jesus’ parties. I guess that when they couldn’t kill the joy of the party, they killed the party-host — which stopped the joy for only a short three days. Then we again see Jesus eating with sinners. The “party” goes on. Continue reading

Lost: sheep and coin

lost_coin_lost_sheepThe Lost Sheep. 4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

Jesus addresses his listeners directly: “What man among you …?” What he suggests all will do in going after the one lost sheep is actually not what many of us would do, but the attractiveness of this extravagant individual concern makes the listener want to agree. In a split second we are drawn into God’s world, seeing and acting as he would. The description of the shepherd echoes Ezek. 34:11–12, 16: Continue reading

Lost: context

lost_coin_lost_sheepLuke 15 is a unique chapters in all the Gospels in that it consists of three memorable parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. Many commentators locate these three parables (Luke 15) within a larger section of Luke that asks the question “who will participate in the reign of God?” (13:10-17:10). The section includes the foundational formation of the disciples – but often via the encounter with the Pharisees in which the assumptions of right relationship with God are put to the question. The Pharisees and others in the Jewish religious leadership assume folks such as tax collectors and sinners are outside the “faithful remnant” that awaits the return of the Messiah. At issue is the question of fellowship in the community of God’s people. Each encounter in this larger section seems to be an opportunity to form the disciples (and anyone who would listen) in the understanding of the reign of God. Continue reading