Sermon for Sunday, September 11th, 2022, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Psalm 51:1-17; Exodus 32:1, 7-14; Luke 15:1-10
The Text: Luke 15:1-10
The Topic: Joy in heaven over the sinner who repents
John Vassar, a notable evangelist, was once traveling in the West when he visited the home of a praying wife whose husband did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. She begged for a Bible, and Vassar, giving her one, went his way. He had no sooner left when the husband, coming home, saw the book and was enraged. Seizing the Bible with one hand and the ax with the other, he hurried to the woodpile where he placed it on the chopping block and hacked it crosswise in two. Returning to the house, he threw half of the destroyed Bible at his wife, saying, “As you claim a part of all the property around here, there is your share of this.”
The other half he tossed into his tool shed. Months later, on a wet winter’s day, the man, wanting to get away from his Christian wife, retreated to his shed. The time passed slowly, and in boredom he looked around for something to read. Thumbing through the mutilated Bible, his attention was caught by the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He became absorbed in the parable only to discover that its ending belonged to his wife’s section. He crept into the house and secretly searched for the bottom half of the book but was unable to find where his wife had hidden it.
Finally he broke down, and asked her for it, and read the story again and again. In the process he came to the Heavenly Father like a penitent prodigal returning home.
Many have wandered away from God and have come to despair, or near the point of death. Psalm 107 recites various situations of God’s people rebelling but being saved in turning back to Him. Though we may be sad that people often must face such extreme crises before they are willing to come back to God, yet there is such great joy when they do!
Today’s Gospel Lesson speaks of the joy God has over one sinner who repents, who turns back to Him. The joy of a shepherd at finding his lost sheep, or a woman at finding her lost drachma, is an image of the joy of God and his angels over the sinner who turns wholeheartedly to Him.
LUKE 15:1-10: GOD’S JOY IN FINDING THE ONE WHO WAS LOST
The reason that the Lord Jesus told the two parables of the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin was the Pharisees and scribes’ discontented grumbling about his welcoming sinners and eating with them. Our Lord does not attribute any extraordinary qualities to the shepherd that searches for his lost sheep. In fact, this shepherd could be any one of his listeners in the crowd who owns sheep or looks after them. The ninety-nine sheep left in the wilderness are left together, and presumably have another shepherd looking after them, while the owner, or chief shepherd, goes looking for the lost sheep. When he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, brings it home, and calls together his friends and neighbors to celebrate the recovery of his lost sheep.
Similarly, the Parable of the Lost Coin ends with the woman calling her friends and neighbors together to celebrate her finding the lost coin.
The point of both these parables is to emphasize that the importance of finding that which is lost justifies the effort expended in looking for it. Spiritually, the lost sheep and the lost coin correspond to the sinner who returns to God or is rather found by Him. The effort Christ made to welcome sinners and to be in their company shows His love for the lost, in making it easier for these people to return to God by repenting of their sin and believing in Him. When what is lost is found, there is great rejoicing, and this is applied to the joy in heaven, and in the presence of the angels of God, when one sinner repents.
In both these parables, someone searches for something regarded as precious in the first century, whether a sheep or a coin, or drachma (a day’s wages at that time – in fact, some Greeks today wish they could return to using the drachma instead of using the Euro). The preciousness of the lost object is more than worth the effort of searching for it. The Lord is showing clearly that God loves every person who is a sinner so much that He will search for that person until He finds him. The sad fact is that there are so many who do not want to be found by God, and who have no desire to repent or return to Him. Despite this, though, the Lord spends time with sinners, welcomes them, talks to them, listens to them, and eats with them. This is in the hope that even one of them would turn to God, bringing about that great rejoicing in heaven of which Jesus speaks.
Our Lord Jesus Christ declared, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” This was after his stay in the home of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who had promised specific acts of restitution and repentance. There is great joy in heaven among the angels when one sinner repents!
Therefore, let us not disparage those Christians who go into bars and disreputable places to share the Gospel with any willing listeners they might find there. Let us also consider how we may be effective messengers of Christ’s love by searching for the lost wherever we are, making them feel welcome, and sharing the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ with them!
 p.150, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.