The 9th Sunday After Trinity July 24, 2005
1 Timothy 1:12-17
748 [TLH alt. 39], 342, 756 [TLH alt. 345], 426
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In Christ Jesus, who searched for us and found us even though we weren’t searching for Him, dear fellow-redeemed:
Have you ever lost anything and then had to search for it through the panic of possibly never finding it? Currently, in our household we are missing three small items including a set of keys. These things were once in my pocket, but where I lay them I do not know. So, the search continues, hoping for the day when the lost will be found. Every time I think of new place where the keys might be I go there…but no, the lost is not there and the search goes on.
How valuable does something have to be for you to search for it with diligence? If you lose your keys to the house or car you’ll probably look hard for them until you find them. If you lose your wallet or your checkbook you’d probably do the same thing. But would you search long and hard for 25 cents? For a nickel? For a penny? You probably would not search for one single penny because what is one penny really worth?
Jesus leads us to appreciate the value of one. The one is first of all Jesus—our one and only Savior. Then from another perspective the one is you—the individual sinner. The Value of One I. Is a value that is in the finding of the lost II. A value that is under-appreciated by the proud and III. A value that is celebrated by the angels of heaven.
The two parables you have just heard are very similar. Both involve something valuable being lost: one sheep out of ninety-nine and one silver coin out of ten. Both the shepherd and the woman search for what they have lost. Both the shepherd and the woman rejoice to find what was lost and ask everyone to join in their joy. Both parables illustrate the searching and finding that Jesus does for sinners.
In both cases, until the lost is found, the joy is only a potential joy. Once the lost is found the value is realized and the searching can stop. When a shepherd loses one of his sheep, he goes out looking for that one sheep. He knows the value of the lost sheep and he knows the potential of having 100 sheep safely in his fold, but if he doesn’t find the sheep then the value of that one sheep is gone. The woman who is searching for the coin knows that if she can find the coin she’ll have the complete set again and the value will be full. But if she can never find it, she has lost the value. The value is in the finding of what is lost.
By using these parables to illustrate His own search, Jesus demonstrates the value in finding a lost sinner. When sin came into the world it was to God’s deep disappointment, sorrow, and anger. The Old Testament Reading demonstrates how angry God became when the Children of Israel marched around the golden calf pretending that it had rescued them from Egypt. Sin angers God. But there is joy and value in finding the lost sinner. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Out of a love that is completely undeserved, God planned our souls’ salvation long before the world began. In time He sent Jesus to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Jesus’ blood and righteousness is available to every sinner for his forgiveness. The value of Jesus’ death and His cleansing blood is present for every sinner. The value of one Savior washes away our sin. The value is accomplished, but it comes to the individual sinner through faith. When the Word of God goes out and the Holy Spirit calls the sinner to faith, Jesus finds the sinner through repentance and faith. It is then that the value is realized. The full salvation that Jesus won for all people is brought to the individual sinner—you and me. Then there is rejoicing in the value of the lost being found.
Each individual sinner’s soul is so valuable to Jesus that He seeks to find it and bring the value of His salvation to it. There were many tax collectors in the days of Jesus. Jesus sought and found one specific tax collector, Matthew, to be His disciple and apostle. There is value in that one sinner who was found by Jesus and used by God to spread the saving Gospel throughout the world.
Jesus went to the tree in which Zacchaeus, another tax collector, was perched. Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, it is necessary for me to come to your house.” (Luke 19:5). Jesus said, “It is necessary, for me to come…I need to come, I must come, because you are an individual sinner of great value to Me I have come to seek you and find you and make you My own.”
On another occasion, a Samaritan woman at a well was surprised that Jesus, a Jewish man, would talk to her. Jesus talked to her in order to have the conversation which led to repentance of her sin, faith in her Savior, and the sharing of the Gospel with the village. It was one woman at a well, one Savior seeking her. It is the value of one!
Each of you shares that same individual value. Your seeking Savior sought you through His Word and the working of the Holy Spirit. He brought you to faith either through Baptism or through the hearing of the Word. He has preserved you in that faith. You have the value of one who is precious to the Lord. You are one whom Jesus has called and made His own because of the joy and the value in finding a lost sinner and giving him the full and free forgiveness which Jesus won on the cross.
When we sin and go astray—and sadly we do stray—we wander like the sheep in Jesus’ parable. When we wander Jesus treats us like a valuable one, goes out and finds us, and calls us back with His Word.
The value of one is realized in the finding. Jesus, our Savior, seeks us with His Gospel and brings us to salvation.
The value of one in Jesus and the value of the ones being found is a value that the proud simply do not appreciate. It was the Pharisees’ and Scribes’ proud complaint that led to Jesus’ parables. “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’” [vv.1-3] The Pharisees recognized the sin of the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other open sinners. They understood that these people were wicked. They understood the grave consequence of the sin, but they did not understand at all the value of the One—Christ. They just saw the sins of these people, never appreciating the fact that Jesus had come to lay down His life for those sins. They under-appreciated the one, Jesus, and they under-appreciated the value of the ones being found. They didn’t think it was right that such well-known sinners should be saved. They were stunned: “Jesus, what are you doing with them?” They couldn’t appreciate God’s Gospel and grace that sees the value of finding lost sinners and bringing them to the salvation of Christ. So they despised the one Savior and they despised His work which was bringing salvation to sinners.
Jesus addressed this self-righteous pride in other parables as well. On one occasion when Jesus was invited into the home of a Pharisee named Simon, a woman whose sins were well known came in, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with fragrant oil. Simon was stunned that Jesus would allow this. Jesus then told a parable of two people who had debts—one owed 500 and the other 50. Both debts were forgiven. “Which one,” Jesus asked Simon, “would love the forgiving creditor more?” Simon answered that he supposed that the one who had the larger debt would love more. Jesus said, “Exactly!” The woman knew her sins and was deeply sorry for them. Knowing her great debt she deeply appreciated her Savior who forgave that great debt. Simon thought he only had a small debt and wasn’t all that excited about Jesus. (cf. Luke 7:36ff).
A greater understanding of sin leads to the greater appreciation for the forgiveness of sins and the value of being found. The Pharisees and those complaining about Jesus didn’t appreciate the value of Jesus because they didn’t appreciate the true nature of their sin.
Jesus once told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went into the temple to pray. The Pharisee said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’” (Luke 18:11-12). In other words, he said, “God, thank you for making me such a great person! Whew! I’m glad I’m not like everyone else!” The tax collector simply beat his breast and said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13). In that parable the tax collector could understand and appreciate the value of being found by a seeking Savior because he understood his sin. The Pharisee, proud as he was, had no true concept of his sin, had no idea that God was condemning him in his own self-righteousness, and boldly said, “I don’t need a savior. Thank you for who I am!”
The proud cannot appreciate the value of a seeking Savior nor the value of being found. So they despise the Savior and they despise those who have been found by him.
As we go about our lives in this world we will see that the one, Jesus, is under-appreciated. Until the people in our world—ourselves included—hear and understand God’s Law that exposes our sin and condemns us for it, they cannot appreciate the Savior. This is why it is so important that we continue to go to God’s Law and use it to see our sin. In the mirror of God’s holiness we see our failures. It is so important that we continue to preach the Law in all of its severity—not hedging and saying, “Maybe you can get by with that sin, its not so bad.” Rather, it is of utmost importance that we clearly tell others what God’s law is, what He expects us to do, what He expects us not to do, and the eternal consequence of failing to live up to those expectations. If sinners do not hear that Law in all of its boldness, they will be proud and never appreciate the value of being found by the one Savior.
The value of our Savior and being found by Him is celebrated by the angels of heaven. At the close of the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” [v.7] At the close of the parable of the lost coin, Jesus said, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [v.10]
If we remember who the angels are and what their purpose is, it is not surprising to hear that they rejoice every time a sinner repents. The angels are spirits created by God for the purpose of serving Him. The evil angels sinned, were cast from heaven, and are now the Devil’s wicked servants—a completely separate group. The holy angels of God are His servants. In Hebrews we’re told that the angels are “all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). The angels rejoice when sinners are found because their goal is to serve God, and God’s goal is that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). When God’s goal is completed and fulfilled, the servants of God—His angels—rejoice! Every time one sinner repents all of heaven erupts in joy! This is true whether it is a believer who strays and is brought back or someone who has never known Christ and for the very first time understands who is Savior is. Every time we witness a baptism heaven is rejoicing because a young child has been brought into the family of God through the washing of regeneration.
When all of heaven rejoices at a sinner’s repentance, we too can rejoice. Paul tells us in Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven (cf. Philippians3:20). Our citizenship and inheritance is in heaven. We are just pilgrims on earth, so if the angels of heaven are rejoicing when a sinner repents, we who are also citizens of heaven also rejoice!
Knowing that we have every reason to join the angels in their joy, we need to take caution lest we find ourselves not rejoicing. There is enough of the Pharisees in our sinful flesh that we could grow proud and not be so happy if someone we don’t like repents. Or, maybe, thoughts sometimes arise that wonder why we are ministering to someone when he looks that way, or because of where he lives, or how he dresses. Maybe we would feel that a sinner has too great of a sin. Could we rejoice if a practicing homosexual came to hear God’s Word and was led to repentance? These situations are really no different than those of Jesus’ day. The open sinners of Jesus’ day came to him repenting of their sins, turning away from their sin, were found by Jesus and all of heaven rejoiced! Whatever the sin is today, when an individual repents of that sin and comes to the one true Savior, putting his trust in the redeeming blood of Christ, that sin stands forgiven and all of heaven rejoices—and so can we!
May God always keep us from being filled with pride that would lead us to under-appreciate the value of a found sinner. May we always rejoice with the angels of heaven and with our Savior Himself when any one soul repents!
The value of one: You have the value of the one Savior given to you in the words of the Gospel. You have those words to carry to one individual sinner at a time. There is not a single individual to whom we cannot bring that Gospel—a neighbor, a family member, someone who needs the Gospel to be strengthened, or someone who needs to be found by the Savior for the first time. The value of one is always worth taking the Gospel to that sinner so that he may be found and uplifted in the faith of our Lord.
The value of one is the value of one Savior for every sinner. Thanks be to God for His remarkable grace! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.