A Jealous God Who Won’t Be Denied
The next three parables in Luke take a turn from the messages that Jesus has been preaching. We have been learning about the cost of discipleship and the standards of hospitality placed upon believers. They are hard lessons that challenge us and cause us to run to Jesus for more grace to live the sanctified life. That’s what Jesus wants us to do – run to him. And when we do, he grants us the grace we need. And so in the passage we take today, we are relieved by that grace, watching how our God pursues us and brings us into his Kingdom. That’s God’s way: when we’re too comfortable, he convicts us; when we’re convicted, he comforts us. In this way, he keeps us running back to him, while he grows us in His grace.
The passage begins by noting that tax collectors and sinners were “drawing near” to Jesus to hear him. When the Pharisees and scribes saw this, they grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Well, we can certainly see why these people would not draw near to the Pharisees and scribes.) So, as Jesus often does, he teaches the people in parables; for the “sinners” that they may behold God’s mercy towards them, for the “righteous” that they may learn their duty to sinners, and rejoice when one of them repents. He begins with a parable about a shepherd who loses one sheep out of one hundred. He still has ninety-nine; ninety-nine percent is a good average. That shepherd was practically “batting a thousand!” But that wasn’t good enough. This particular shepherd was consumed over finding that one sheep, and when he did, he called everyone over to rejoice with him over that one sheep. Jesus then tells a parable about a woman who lost one silver coin out of ten. She still had nine, but that didn’t matter. She swept the house (think, dirt floor) and searched diligently until she found that one coin. And what is Jesus’ point in all of this? That “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” and that even more than over “ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
This is the heart of our God: He desires to see sinners turn to Him and rediscover themselves as people remade after the image of His dear Son. And not only so but He pursues us. His Holy Spirit will not let that dear one be lost but will pursue until he conquers that soul he loves: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8:6). Our God will not be denied the soul He loves, for He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), and that’s a good thing.