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A Soul Seeking God

(Luke 15:1-32)

Three parables. All three come as a response by Jesus to the heckling that He incessantly
received and was subjected to by the Pharisees and the scribes. They saw no good in
Jesus. They understood neither His work nor His teachings. And especially problematic to
them was His constant association with those that they had judged, unholy, sinners. They
took issue with Him at every interval especially since He engaged the fallen, men and
women that they piously prejudged, without even taking the time to try to understand, to get
to know the people self better. Yet it was their personal self-righteousness, and pride, that
lay at the root of the problem. Seeing the ‘speck’ in other's eyes was an easy thing to do,
seeing the ‘plank’ in their own was not (Mt 7:1-5). Jesus had a name for them and He did not
hesitate to use it: hypocrites.

But there too seems to be an apparent element of jealousy spurring the Pharisees and the
scribes on. Jesus was relevant. His teachings were real and appealed to those who were
drowning in the problems and trouble associated with everyday living. He offered them a
way to recover themselves apart from a legalistic adherence to the Law. He offered them
grace. And He backed it up. It was what they needed most. It is what we need most.

Consequently large crowds of people would follow on after Jesus, much to the disdain of the
Pharisees and the scribes: ‘The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him, but
the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats
with them.” So to them he addressed this parable...’ (Lk 15:1-3).

They are three in fact, and are told by Jesus to explain Himself, His purpose and intentions.
St Matthew records with St Luke, the first of the parables, that of the Lost Sheep (Mt 18:12-
14; Lk 15:1-7), to which St Luke adds the Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10) and the
longer Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32). All three are related parables of items lost
and subsequently found. The point of each is the joy and celebration that comes after item is
recovered. In point of fact, it appears as if joy and celebration are what matters most.

In telling them these, Jesus is sincerely trying to make Himself understood by those who
considered themselves ‘pure, ‘holy’ and ‘just’, and not necessarily to the ‘sinners’ in
audience. They were direct at exactly the hard of heart, self-righteous and arrogant people,
who cared precious little for others, and even less for the lost.

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The parables all too us, are especially well known. They are indeed, old Sunday school
favourites.

First we have the lost sheep: Ninety-nine are accounted for. One is lost. Astonishingly, the
shepherd elects to leave the ninety-nine and go out in search of the lost individual. And
happy is the stray that the shepherd pursues. The Orthodox teach here, that the one
hundred (the ninety-nine + the one) represent all of rational creation. The one sheep that
goes astray represents mankind, and the ninety-nine, the angelic-realm. It is not hard to
miss the spiritual imagery of the shepherd being Christ Incarnate, leaving the realm of
heaven to become man in order to pursue a race fallen into sin and corruption. Unlike the
earthy shepherds of the day, He was willing to leave others, at great risk to Himself, in order
to save one, ‘and when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy’ (Lk 15:5).
He then ‘calls together his friends and neighbours’ and throws a party.

Next we have the lost coin. Archaeology has taught us that first-century Palestinian homes
were, by design, poorly lit structures. The floors were moreover, stony and gritty. There were
plenty of places for a single coin to fall and lay unseen and well concealed. The woman who
has lost one of her ten coins ‘light[s] a lamp and sweep[s] the house, searching carefully
until she finds it’ (Lk 15:8). See too throws a party when she eventually hears the clink of the
coin under her broom and finds it. Very symbolic. Who else lights the lamp but Christ, to
sweep through lost mankind, in search of that mislaid soul.

Like the previous two parable, the Parable of the Lost Son demonstrates the great love that
Christ has for the lost and the joy and celebration that comes on recouping that which was
lost. Here, the father’s efforts and eagerness to find his lost son, borders on being almost
embarrassing. Yet it well displays the predilection that Jesus Himself has for lost sinners,
and allegory is the length to which He will go in order to see that lost sinners are found.
Jesus drives His point home in this the last of the three parables: God is the merciful father;
the lost younger brother, the ‘sinners’ with whom Jesus associates and minsters to; and the
elder brother, our conceited Pharisees and scribes. The conduct of the father in this parable
well demonstrates the grand extent of the mercy and grace of God.

Through these parables, we truly get a glimpse of the character of God, and the
awesomeness of the love and the longing that He has towards us. For you and I are born
sinners. We see things as clear as mud. We are led by our feelings and the pressures that
living in a fallen and evil world exert upon us. The tendency is always to that which is wrong.
Telling a little lie is easier than telling the truth, just ask any ten-year-old. Sleeping in and
speeding off to work is easier than rising early and driving within the speed limit. Pushing
into a queue is easier than patiently standing by in the line and waiting your turn. Taking the

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insult and not retaliating is definitely not as easy as returning the insult and that with
something even more potent added. Getting the divorce is easier than sticking it out, and
working it out. Not phoning and making peace with that cousin that refuses to speak to you
is far easier than phoning. And going for a cycle or to the beach is perhaps easier, and more
enjoyable to do, than committing to getting up and coming faithfully to the Church on Sunday
after Sunday.

Worse even is that for countless souls out there, unless God takes the imitative, and
somehow reveals Himself to them, then He either means nothing to them, or simply does not
exist. Be that as it may, God is well aware of our wickedness and our tendency to sin. But
God has not given up on us in our fallen and sinful state. No, salvation history reveals a God
who has gone to extreme lengths in order for you and I to become saved. His salvic
intentions culminated at the cross of Calvary, where His very own Son, Jesus Christ died, as
the perfect sacrifice, a substitutionary death, so that you and I, who are quite incapable of
saving ourselves, could indeed be saved. What a gift!

And He is always willing to save... No matter who. Sadly we like the Pharisees and the
scribes may suffer from a superiority complex and see nothing but ‘sinners’ around us. God
on the other hand, see souls for the saving. Lost creatures, people who are empty and
hurting for want of Jesus and His saving power. Given that, we, as Christian believers, who
have experienced both the love and the forgiveness of God in our lives, and the treasure of
knowing Him though His Son Jesus Christ, need to be tender and compassionate with
others who `are still seeking. Let us be vehicles of grace, mercy, love and peace. For it
pleases the heart of God, to see us labouring for souls in His name. And our labour will not
be in vain, great will be the joy and celebration, when the dead and lost are found (Lk 15:32).

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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