Loving and Saving the Lost
Friend of Sinners and Tax Collectors
Jesus shocked the traditional Jewish mindset when He openly and it seems, deliberately, ate and socialized with tax collectors and sinners. In fact, He was labelled, as a ‘friend’ of sinners and tax collectors. Luke chapter 15 highlight such an event. Jesus was already unpopular with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and this public eating with ‘sinners,’ just added fuel to the fire. They were looking for a reason to find fault with this Galilean preacher.
Significant Eastern Practices
In our Westernized culture, eating is many times just an opportunity to still your hunger. Not so in the East. There it is an important social event. Breaking bread with someone is more than eating; it is a covenant ‘friend’ statement. By this, you declare that you identify with them, celebrate in their successes and you weep and cry, and vow to help in their pain and difficulty. Jesus said as much to the tax collector and the sinner, by eating with them. Tax collectors were traitors as far as the Jews were concerned. Tax collectors rejected the Torah and preferred to make money their god. They sided with the Romans, collected their taxes, and made a decent profit on top of that. This was a profit, made at the expense of their own people. No wonder the Pharisees hated them so much. The Pharisees rejected them, and looked down at them. Tax collectors were worse than sinners and gentiles. All these people meant nothing to the Pharisees.
Lost Sheep; Lost Coin; Lost Son
Jesus was a different kind of teacher. He loved and served the people that He taught, fed and healed. In this chapter, Jesus told a parable to get a point across to all three groups in his audience. The Sinner, the tax collector and the religious elite. He tells the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost Son. The word ‘lost’ is the common denominator in these stories.
It is interesting to see the effort both the shepherd and the woman with the silver coins made to find their property. Both of them rejoiced when they found what was dear to them. In the same way, the prodigal son’s father rejoiced, when he returned home after he also lost his way. The word ‘lost’ has many connotations. You can, be lost when you have strayed away from the path, like what happened to the sheep. You can be lost because someone forgot you or left you behind. You are also a loss to your family when they hear of your passing. Finally, you can be devastated and lost once you discover that all your property, savings and assets have been confiscated, because of a failed business transaction.
A thing can only be lost if it belonged to someone. The sheep to the shepherd, the coin to the woman and the son ‘belonged’ in a sense to the father. They highly valued their property and that is why they made every effort to have them back.
We belong to the Father
We belong to God. He loves every one of us dearly. The prodigal son’s father restored him completely and all three characters rejoiced and celebrated the return of their loss. Jesus told this to make people understand that even though He was rejected by people like the tax collector, that His love for, and value of all people, is still the same, regardless of their behavior. His name is Jesus, the Savior of the world. See Matt 1:21. He said that He came to seek and to save the lost. See Luke 19:10. We all went astray and was lost too. See Isaiah 53:6 .
God made us for himself. This is not just a religious ‘lost’ like in condemned and doomed to failure and destruction. This is an owner, a father, who wants us to be found, to come back home. This is one of the main reasons that Jesus did not mind to mingle and mix with these sinners as this was a demonstration of what was to come. He would, at His crucifixion become sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. See 2 Cor 5:21. God wants His family back. Tax collector, you do not have to sell your soul for money, God has more than what you need. Sinner, your sin can only cost you. It is seasonal and it comes with wages of death. Jesus explained in the last story that being lost is like being dead and death seems to follow you in all your ways. He came to give life and to give it more abundantly. Pharisee, Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people, alive. See Eph 2:1,5 .
Together in His Service.
Pastor: Bethany Christian Church