This week, our readings are all about forgiveness and mercy, something that God specializes in.
In Exodus 32:7-14, Moses begs God to forgive His people and God relents. In the Psalm 51:1-11, David begs for forgiveness after he has been confronted by Nathan over his sin with Bathsheba. Our gospel reading from Luke chapter 15:1-10, which we could probably name the lost and found chapter, begins with the parable of the lost sheep, goes to the lost coin and ends with the lost or “Prodigal Son.” At the beginning of the chapter, we see Jesus' old nemeses the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are again muttering against him. It seems that Jesus’ penchant for hanging out with sinners and, heaven forbid; eating with them is a problem for them. Jesus responds to the Pharisees in His usual manner with a few stories to get them to see the error of their ways. In the first parable, Jesus appeals to their pocket books. He poses the question, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and looses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Jesus goes on to describe the rejoicing over the found sheep and ends by comparing this joy to the joy in heaven over those who repent. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Just in case our Pharisees and teachers of the law didn’t get the point, Jesus continues with another story. Again Jesus starts with a question. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” Do you see the pattern here? Jesus poses a question, then He gives the answer in the form of a parable, finally He explains the parable. Jesus’ comparison here is almost the same as the first one, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” What is our theme so far? Heaven rejoices over the one sinner who repents, more than over all the others who do not need to repent. The good news for us in that God’s love embraces all sinners. Jesus story shows the contrast between the self-centered exclusiveness of the Pharisees, who failed to understand God’s love, and the concern and joy of God at the repentance of sinners. Remember that God loves each one of us as though there were only one of us. "How much more rejoicing is there in heaven over one sinner who repents?