Apparently our server is down again this seek, so all I have is the printed version of this sermon. Sorry for the inconvenience. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you really want the mp3 and I'll send it to you. -Pastor Caleb Schaller
Boom! Pow! Ziiiiiiiiiip! Mooooo. Oink oink. Meow.
No, your pastor hasn’t gone crazy. These words are examples of onomatopoeia. In every language there are words that seek to communicate a sound by simply imitating that sound.
In third year Greek we learned about one such word that is used in the New Testament. The Greek word for “grumble”—“gong-guz-oh”.
It’s kinda fun to say. Repeat after me, “gong-guz-oh”.
Okay, let’s experience this word a little deeper. I want everyone on the right side to say “gong-guz-oh” four times, but not all at the same time. Kinda overlap your grumbles and put a nice low rumble into them. Ready? Go.
Nice. Now let’s have the left side give it a try. Say “gong-guz-oh” four times with a low overlapping rumble.
This was the sound that Jesus heard one day when he was teaching the crowds. The sound of grumbling was coming from the Pharisees and scribes. The “holier than thou” religious people.
You see, among the people who crowded around Jesus to hear him speak, there were tax collectors and prostitutes. People who by their trades were known to be thieves and sexual sinners. But Jesus didn’t seek to separate himself from these people. He didn’t drive them away. Instead, he conversed openly with these open sinners and even ate lunch with them.
And so the Pharisees grumbled. And Jesus heard their “gong-guz-oh”. And in that grumbling Jesus perceived an attitude that was all wrong.
In our reading for today Jesus seeks to teach that the proper attitude toward unbelieving sinners is an attitude of mercy, not an attitude of cold, immovable judgment.
Luke 15:1-10 (ESV)
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 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.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And 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.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In another section of Scripture Jesus famously says,
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NASB).
This statement gets thoroughly abused. People say that this mean we should never tell people their actions are sinful. That would be judging them, and Jesus says not to do that. This is nonsense. Jesus consistently teaches his followers that no matter what flavor sin comes in, it’s always wrong. Sin is evil. We should always call sin, sin.
The judging that we’re not supposed to do happens when we treat sinning people as if they can’t be regained from their sinful habits. We’re not supposed to pretend like we know that they can never change. That we know God can’t get through to them. That’s the judging that we’re forbidden to do. And that’s the very judging that the Pharisees and scribes were guilty of.
The Pharisees looked at the thieving tax collectors and the fornicating prostitutes and said in their hearts, “These people are lost FOREVER. They’re dirty, sick, and hopeless. They make no effort to change their ways. Let them lie in the bed they’ve made for themselves. They’ve chosen their path, let them go ahead and skip down the road to hell.”
Because the Pharisees judged these people as hopeless, they wouldn’t have anything to do with them. They ignored and disrespected them at every turn.
It comes as no surprise then, that when the Pharisees saw Jesus talking and eating with these people, they interpreted that to mean that in some way Jesus accepted their sins.
But that wasn’t what Jesus was doing at all. When Jesus talked and ate with tax collectors and prostitutes he wasn’t expressing acceptance of their evils. He was expressing the truth that these people were not necessarily lost forever. They could be regained. Their sins could be forgiven, and their lives could be reformed. Yeah, they were lost, but they could be found.
While the Pharisees and scribes viewed open sinners as having no value, Jesus showed that God valued them. Which shouldn’t surprise us. Everything God creates has value, especially those creatures who were originally made in his image!
When Jesus mingled with thieves and fornicators he was showing them that God still loved them, cared for them, and in mercy was reaching out to SAVE them. He wanted to save them from the final judgment, and hell, and he also wanted to save them from all the pain and heartache that a sinful life heaps on a person.
When a climber is reported missing, the rescue teams around here don’t spend a bunch of time evaluating whether it was the fault of the climber or not. They just get out onto the mountainside and start looking.
Rescue teams do this because they value human life.
This is the same attitude that we should have when it comes to rescuing the souls of lost sinners. We shouldn’t spend a bunch of time evaluating whether a sinner deserves their fate or not. And we certainly shouldn’t abandon the rescue attempt if it was their own choices that got them in trouble.
If we value the people that God has made, we will seek to cultivate an attitude of pity and mercy toward them—even when it’s their own stupid choices that have gotten them in trouble, even when their sins are being committed against US!
After all, that’s the kind of attitude that God had toward us! ALL of us deserve hell because of our sins against each other and against God. We aren’t forgiven because we chose God, but because he chose us. HE CHOSE US. HE used the law to show us our sins. HE used the Gospel to show us our Savior. HE convinced us that through Christ we have complete forgiveness and peace with God. If we EVER look at someone else and dismiss them as worthless and un-savable like the Pharisees did, we aught to be flogged.
Jesus used two parables to show us how to view sinners. One parable has to do with a shepherd searching for a lost sheep. The other has to do with a woman searching for a lost coin. The point of both parables is that when something is LOST, you go and find it.
The details in these parables help us to mold the right attitude. First Jesus teaches us to view sinners as LOST, and in need of rescue.
The foolish sheep that gets away from the safety of the flock needs help! The shepherd is a pretty pathetic shepherd if he says, “Dumb old sheep, it deserves to be taken down by the wolves.” Yeah, the sheep got itself lost, but that just emphasizes the fact that it needs help.
The parable of the lost coin teaches us to view sinners as VALUABLE. God didn’t created them to be lost. He didn’t create them just to watch them wallow around in sin and guilt. He’s not amused by the pain sinners feel as they make one horrible mistake after another. God created us to be in an intimate and loving relationship with HIM, and to experience meaningful relationships with one another. As Christians we aught to see everyone as a valuable soul that God cherishes, wants by his side, and wants us to cherish also.
At the beginning of the sermon we talked about the sound of grumbling that Jesus heard. But there’s also another sound that Jesus mentions here. The sound of the angels rejoicing in heaven.
The prophet Isaiah heard the angels sing around God’s throne when he received a vision of God’s throne room. The shepherds heard ranks of angels praise God with their voices as they announced the birth of Christ. I wonder, what does it sounds like when the angels rejoice with loud voices? It must be pretty amazing. Full of power and glory and joy.
It’s a shocking contrast that while the Pharisees were grumbling, angels were singing for joy in heaven as more and more sinners were brought to faith in their Savior.
I guess that’s the question that we need to ask ourselves: do we want to be like the grumbling Pharisees, or the rejoicing angels? If we want to be like the rejoicing angels then we need to apply love, honesty, and patience to the sinners we know. That’s what they need! They certainly don’t need our grumbling judgment. They certainly don’t need to be abandoned. They need us to bring them the truth, in love. They need us to patiently call sin, sin. They need us to point out their sins and the consequences of sin until they own their guilt. And then they need us to bring them the Gospel of God’s grace. That’s how the lost get found.
In Greek class we also learned about the word, “Mercy”. In the Greek it’s “eleos”. This word is defined as, “kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
This is the attitude that we should have toward sinners. May God give us a heart full of mercy.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you didn’t abandon us because we were guilty. Though we made choice after horrible choice and committed sin after stupid sin, you sought us out and found us. You placed us on your shoulders and brought us home. Help us to have the same heart of mercy and love toward the sinners around us, the same heart of mercy that you had for us. Thank you. Amen.