Jesus tells this very short story about a shepherd who loses just one of his 100 sheep, finds it, then throws a party.  It’s short, but it says a lot!  Particularly when we pay attention to who is listening.

He tells is to a divided audience that includes tax collectors and sinners, AND religious authorities like the Pharisees and Scribes.

Every time he spends time with such people as sinners and tax collectors, the religious authorities like the Pharisees get upset, particularly when he doesn’t spend every moment condemning their background, and instead spends time teaching, inviting, giving, healing and partying with them.

Just using the example of tax collector, here are people who collect money on behalf of hated, oppressive overlords.  Not only that, they generally skim some off the top to pay themselves.  The regularly come into contact with Gentiles, or non-Jews, and so the Pharisees would consider tax collectors unclean.

Sinners are a general category – people who either don’t know the Jewish law, being illiterate, poor or ill raised.  Or they are people who know it, but don’t care.

Jesus is often criticized for eating and drinking with them, partying, and this story seems to be his explanation.

He’s not just partying it up with people out of touch with God – he is drawing them into a relationship with God, and partying because they’re saying yes.

Heaven is like a great party, and it always gets most celebratory, most joyous and loud when a sinner, like the ones gathered all around him, turns away from sin and death and turns to God instead.

Fine, that’s in heaven.

Jesus is all about living in the kingdom of heaven, even while he walks on earth. So, he celebrates when someone new decides to join him in living out heaven on earth.  He mirrors what’s happening in heaven.

AND he seems to be suggesting we should, too.  The Pharisees aren’t, they’re scolding and judging.  They think repentance is when they force people to conform to their religious system, their laws.  They haven’t noticed that the people they call sinners and tax collectors have just met God himself, in the flesh, and repented.  If they did, they might have joined in the party!

He directly calls them out – God rejoices most over finding one lost sinner, not over 99 people who think they are perfect.

Jesus is practicing his party skills, because he’s just found a bunch of lost people willing to follow him.  He’s just become their shepherd; he’s going to keep them safe now from sin, death.

Question: How do you think being with Jesus was like being a party?  What made his parties different?

Meeting with a Group?  Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide

[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]