Joy In Heaven

     Luke 15 is the chapter of three lost things: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost boy. Each of the parables teaches us that God places different values on things than we do. The shepherd had lost but one of his ninety-nine sheep but he kept looking until he found it. The woman who lost one of her ten coins searched carefully even though she still had nine of them safely in her possession. Most famous is the father’s joy at the return of his prodigal son.

     We’ve all experienced losing something that was important to us. We turn the house “upside down” searching for a favorite pen, or shirt, or keys, or it seems so often these days, our phones. It seems that there is always somebody around who will ask, “Well, where did you leave it?” You know the feeling.

     This matter of losing things, looking for them and the feelings of relief and happiness that come when the lost item is found is and always has been a part of human experience. Therefore everyone who heard these three parables form Jesus could identify and “get” His point. He spoke of an animal, a coin and a person but the common thread was the idea of finding that which had been lost.

     The context of Luke 15 has to do with the Pharisees and scribes criticism of Jesus for being around sinners and even eating with them. We know why Jesus did this: He was and is about saving souls. The Pharisees and scribes looked down on people they believed to be inferior to them spiritually. This would, by the way, be everybody who was not in their own self-appointed superior group. We might well remember that a saved person is not “better” or superior to an unsaved person. Saved people are not better; saved people are simply saved.

     In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus emphasized the joy in Heaven over penitence. There can be no doubt that this parable is pointed at the scribes and Pharisees. They did not repent because they saw no need to repent. If you will use a concordance and run the references to “scribes” and to “Pharisees” you will see that the Biblical text describes them as self-righteous. There is no joy in heaven over self-righteousness.

     The parable of the coin is also about the joy that repentance brings in Heaven. Students of the Bible tell us that this coin may have been in a necklace of ten coins often worn by a married woman. The coin’s value may have been more than just monetary. Still, think about losing ten-percent of all that you have. Such a loss might be survivable but not desirable. The Lord’s point is the same: this is the sort of joy seen “in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

     Of course, the parable of the prodigal son is the most poignant of the three. The story of the boy demanding his inheritance and running off to “waste his possessions with prodigal living” is familiar and sadly recurring. Young men can indeed lose their minds at times and do very stupid things. Jesus beautifully paints the scene of his return home. The boy’s father is happy and the boy himself is overjoyed.

     The boy’s brother, however, was not at all happy. He was jealous and spiteful. He was, like the Pharisees and scribes who were listening to the Lord, wrapped up in self-righteousness. Those men could not stand to see Jesus offer salvation to sinners. The elder brother was likewise disturbed by his father’s forgiveness of the prodigal.

     There are two points we must not miss: There is joy in Heaven over a sinner’s repentance and we all need to repent.