Luke 15:1-10

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

October 10, 2001


Back in Luke 14, Jesus had been invited to a dinner party by one of the chief Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a sect that believed all the right things. They believed in miracles. They believed in angels. They believed in a resurrection. They believed that all the Old Testament Scriptures were the Word of God. They were also very, very, very legalistic.

At this dinner party, Jesus began to confront the Pharisees about some of their beliefs and behavior.

He showed them that when it came to their ideas of “keeping the Sabbath”, that they really were more concerned about animals than they were other people.

He confronted them about their proud behavior of trying to sit in the “place of honor” at the feast.

He encouraged them that when they have parties like this, that they ought to invite people who can’t pay them back, that they need to have a heart for the needy.

As He was speaking these things, a greater and greater crowd began to gather around Jesus.

Jesus turned to this great crowd and talked to them about what it means to follow Him. A person must be willing to make Jesus first in their life. He must be more important than any other person in their life. He must be more important than even a person’s own life. A true disciple of Jesus will carefully consider this before choosing to follow Him.

As Jesus has made things rather uncomfortable, and as He has challenged people to “take up their cross and follow Him”, an interesting thing begins to happen. The makeup of the crowd around Him begins to change.

:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

publicanstelones – a renter or farmer of taxes; a tax gatherer, collector of taxes or tolls, one employed by a publican or farmer general in the collection of taxes. The tax collectors were as a class, detested not only by the Jews, but by other nations also, both on account of their employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they did their job.

sinnershamartolos – devoted to sin, a sinner; specifically of men stained with certain definite vices or crimes; tax collectors, heathen

I think it’s fascinating that as Jesus is talking about what it really means to follow Him, that this is the group that inches a little closer to Him.

:2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

murmureddiagogguzo – to murmur; either of a whole crowd, or among one another; always used of many indignantly complaining

receivethprosdechomai – to receive to one’s self, to admit, to give access to one’s self; to admit one, receive one into intercourse and companionship

eateth withsunesthio – to eat with, take food together with

In the culture of that day, to “eat with” someone was an act of becoming “one” with them.

You would typically sit at a table and have a common bowl in the middle with something like soup in it.  The host would take a loaf of bread, break off a chunk, and pass it around the table.  As you ate the bread, you would dip into the “soup” and then eat the bread.  You all ate from the same bowl.  You all ate from the same bread.  You were all nourished with the same food.  You were all becoming one.
For the good Jew, this was disastrous if you ate with a “sinner”.  You were becoming one with a “sinner”.
Yet Jesus was astounding these men because He not only spent time with “sinners”, He actually ate with them.


Grumbling at sinners

The Pharisees and scribes were “nice” people. They were used to only hanging out with other “nice” people. They didn’t like being bothered or made uncomfortable by being forced to hang around “uncomfortable” people.
It’s a sad thing, but we can become comfortable in church and comfortable with our little groups of friends that think like we do, dress like we do, and talk like we do.  It’s okay to have friends and it’s okay to feel “comfortable” in church.
When it becomes a problem is when we cease to be friendly with “sinners” or people who don’t seem to fit in with us.
His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant. Kinda esoteric and very, very bright. He became a Christian while attending college. Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it. One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started and so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now people are looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Bill gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this church before!) By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick. About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, a three-piece suit, and a pocket watch. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves, “You can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?” It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The people are thinking, “The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.” And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won’t be alone. Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control he says, “What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.”

Author unknown

I sure hope that we will be a church that won’t be grumbling when “sinners” come through the doors.  I hope we will be a church that will sit down on the floor with them.

:3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

:4 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?

loseapollumi – to destroy; render useless; to lose

leavekataleipo – to leave behind; to depart from, leave; to forsake, leave to one’s self a person or thing by ceasing to care for it, to abandon, leave in the lurch

ninety and nineennenekontaennea – ninety nine

the wildernesseremos – solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited; a desert, wilderness

lostapollumi – to destroy; render useless; to lose

findheurisko – to come upon, hit upon, to meet with; after searching, to find a thing sought

Jesus is laying out a situation that the people would be familiar with. He’s laying out a situation where the people would be agreeing to what He is suggesting.

If a shepherd has lost a single sheep, he will leave the flock in order to find the lost sheep.


Being a responsible shepherd

Keep in mind – a shepherd won’t leave the flock forever, but only for a while.
A good shepherd is around to tend to the needs of his flock.
(Prov 27:23-27 KJV) Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. {24} For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? {25} The hay appeareth, and the tender grass showeth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. {26} The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. {27} And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

For a shepherd, his “flock” is his way of supporting himself. A good shepherd will pay attention to his flock and the needs of the flock.

When Jesus is talking about “leaving the ninety and nine” for the sake of the “one”, He isn’t saying that a shepherd will forever leave his flock in order to spend all his time looking for lost sheep.

A good shepherd doesn’t neglect his flock, he takes care of his flock.

In a sense, we all have some kind of “flock”. For those of us who are parents, our families are our flock. If you are married, your spouse is part of your flock. If you have a job, there is a sense that your employment is a type of flock.

I’ve heard Pastor Chuck tell about how he had gotten to the place where he was constantly gone all the time, flying around the world to different conferences and speaking opportunities. And he began to see how it affected his flock. He changed his schedule and is home much more now.

A good shepherd protects his flock.
David was a shepherd before he was ever a king. When he faced Goliath, he had already been trained what to do because of his experience as a shepherd.

(1 Sam 17:34-35 KJV) And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: {35} And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

David wrote a Psalm about shepherding:

(Psa 23 KJV) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. {3} He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

As our Shepherd, God leads us to healthy places. He doesn’t make us lie down in a desert, but in green pastures. He doesn’t lead us to drink in places that are going to sweep us up and carry us off, but to “still waters”.

{4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

We don’t have to be afraid because our Shepherd is “with” us. The rod and staff were tools of the shepherd to both discipline and guide the sheep, as well as to beat off the wolves. David found comfort in knowing that God was willing to use His rod and staff, whether to guide his steps, or to protect him from an enemy.

{5} Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

layeth it onepitithemi – to put or lay upon

shouldersomos – a shoulder

rejoicingchairo – to rejoice, be glad; to rejoice exceedingly

:6 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.

calleth togethersugkaleo – to call together, assemble; to call together to one’s self

friendsphilos – friend, to be friendly to one, wish him well

neighboursgeiton – a neighbour

rejoice withsugchairo – to rejoice with, take part in another’s joy; to rejoice together, to congratulate

:7 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.

joychara – joy, gladness

that repenteth metanoeo – to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent; to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins

just personsdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws; in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God

What is repentance?

Our English word, repent, means to “turn around”. It means that you were driving in one direction, you stop, and turn around and go another direction. It means that you stop running from God and you start running toward God.

But with the Greek word that is translated “repentance”, it’s not just a change in behavior, it’s a change at the root of what causes the behavior. It’s a change of mind.

You can tell a pig to stop wallowing in the mud, and it might be able to control its behavior for a little while. But sooner or later it’s going to go back to the mud because it is still by nature a pig.
A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on its back across the river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.” “My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “If I were to sting you, you would drown and I’d go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?” “You’re right,” cried the turtle. “Hop on.” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle, resigned, said, “Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there is no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?” “It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion replied. “It’s just my nature.”

(2 Cor 7:8-11 KJV)  For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. {9} Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. {10} For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. {11} For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Tests of true repentance...

When I get to talking to someone about the subject of repentance, either in talking about how they can tell if someone else is sincere about repentance, or in talking about their own repentance in a certain area, I turn to this passage.  There are eight qualities here of true repentance.
1.  Carefulness (Earnestness)
carefulnessspoude haste, with haste; earnestness, diligence; earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything

True repentance deals with the sin immediately.  No delays.  Take care of the situation.  Correct it now.

2.  Clearing (vindication) of yourselves
clearingapologia verbal defence, speech in defence

It’s clearing your name.  Doing what’s necessary to clear the wrong you’ve done.

True repentance says “I’m sorry”

3.  Indignation
indignationaganaktesis indignation, irritation, vexation; (from agan, achomai; to grieve much)

True repentance is truly grieved and upset over its own sin.  Sometimes the victory in our lives over certain areas just doesn’t occur until we get to the point where our sin just totally makes us sick.

4.  Fear
phobon - fear.

Fear of God. 

Of displeasing God.

Of what they’ve done.

5.  Vehement desire (longing)
desireepipotheo to long for, desire; to pursue with love, to long after; to lust

Repentance involves a deep, deep desire to do what’s right.  It’s a “lust”, but not for something forbidden, it’s a “lust” for something that’s right.

6.  Zeal
zealzelos excitement of mind, ardour, fervour of spirit; ardour in embracing, pursuing, defending anything
There is a great “zeal”, a great passion to do what is right.
7.  Revenge (avenging of wrong)
revengeekdikesis a revenging, vengeance, punishment; meeting out of justice; doing justice to all parties.

The Bible says that we are not to take “vengeance” (Rom. 12:19), but that is when somebody has wronged us. Here the idea is that you take “vengeance”, but for the sake of the person that YOU’VE wronged.

It means you pay the price to make things right.

Where there is a debt incurred, it is paid.

8.  In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (in everything demonstrated to be innocent)
approvedsunistao – to place together; to put together by way of composition or combination, to teach by combining and comparing; to show, prove, establish, exhibit
clearhagnos – pure; pure from carnality, chaste, modest; pure from every fault, immaculate; clean
the matterpragma – that which has been done, a deed, an accomplished fact
When a person is truly overcome with repentance, it affects their whole life.

It’s not like they only try to change the one area that you pointed out.  Their whole life turns over.


Get serious about change

God doesn’t just want us to be “sorry” over our sins.  He wants us to be serious about it, starting with a change in how we think about our sin, and serious enough to work true repentance.

:8 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?

pieces of silverdrachme – a drachma, a Greek silver coin about the same weight as a Roman denarius

lighthapto – to fasten to, adhere to; to fasten fire to a thing, kindle, set of fire

sweepsaroo – to sweep, clean by sweeping

seekzeteo – to seek in order to find

diligentlyepimelos – diligently, carefully – with care

:9 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.

:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Why did Jesus spend time with sinners?

Keep in mind, Jesus is telling each of these parables in order to show the Pharisees why He is spending time with sinners.

Jesus spent time with sinners to bring them to repentance.


Seek for the lost

Outside of church – God wants us to stretch a little and be willing to spend time with people that aren’t Christians.
But keep in mind, the goal here is to lead people to Jesus, not to let the unbeliever influence us.  If you are having a tough time being around unbelievers because they make it too easy for you to backslide, then perhaps you need to take a little time off and get stronger in the Lord.
But for most of you here (On Wednesday night, you are the cream of the crop!) – be open to spending time with those who don’t know Jesus. 
In church – we’re looking to make some changes in the way our ushers and greeters operate at church.  We’re looking for some folks who would be willing to smile, shake a hand or two, and welcome visitors that come to our church.  We could use some folks who are keeping their eye open for visitors, and who would be willing to sit next to someone different in church.


Heaven loves repentance

I think we should get a little excited when someone chooses to turn around too.
When someone comes forward at church, I wonder if we shouldn’t be applauding!  Perhaps handing out party hats!  I think that the folks in heaven are doing it!