Luke 15:1-10 - The Overwhelming, Never-Ending, Reckless Love of God
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Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Jesus to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to complain, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” - Luke 15:1-2

The love of God is not merely a decision He's made, that's what people who haven't experienced the kind of love that overrides all self-preservation and compels a person to act would say. To describe love to a person who has never experienced it is like trying to describe what the color orange looks like to someone born blind. You could say it looks a lot like the sun, but they've never seen the sun. You could say it settles between yellow and red, but they're equally as unfamiliar with those. You could say it's the same color as the fruit... you see where I'm going. Likewise describing the kind of love that compels a person to act without any self regard is difficult to describe in a way that those without a point of reference can relate. Perhaps they weren't brought up in a loving home or they themselves have never felt 1 Corinthians 13 type love towards anyone else. Therefore it's very hard for them to understand a God who loves in that way as is the plague of these scribes and Pharisees. That however doesn't stop Jesus from trying:


And so He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. - Luke 15:3-7

I love the heart of Jesus who instead of rebuking the scribes and Pharisees met them on their level and tried to show them through parables the love God has for us. Jesus uses two real life examples that any of them can relate to in order to bring them to a place where they could see themselves acting in love so they might better understand why God is compelled the same way toward the tax collectors and sinners of whom they grumbled about Jesus having fellowship with (v2).


Question: Why is there more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (v7) than over ninety-nine righteous people who don't need to? Think about it. God has 100 people, 1 goes AWOL, 99 remain... what real difference is 1% going to make whether it's loss or gain? Or a better question, why on earth would He part from the 99 in order to seek out the 1 knowing it's not a guarantee He'll even find them? Seems reckless, yet He refuses to turn back until He does. (v4)


The answer? Love. If you're trying to quantify it you're missing it altogether. This has nothing to do with logistics or being prudent, as His leaving the 99 attests to. It has everything to do with the heart of God and how unbearable it is for Him to lose you. God doesn't have "acceptable losses" (John 18:9) nor is He okay with "collateral damage" (Mat. 13:29). This isn't a calculated decision, it's an overriding compulsion of His heart. Jesus in sharing these parables is trying to provide a point of reference to those that don't understand (v2) that we may know His heart toward us "awful rotten sinners" (v1). God cannot NOT act to save you (1 John 2:2, 1 Tim. 4:10) and He won't stop looking for you even if it kills Him.


“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” - Luke 15:8-10


How beautiful heaven must be that those present rejoice with God and God likewise with them when someone who is lost is found. What love! If your heart doesn't rejoice or you are struggling to understand, then perhaps you find yourself seeing these parables and feeling similar to the prodigal's older brother who saw the Father's rejoicing over the return of His lost brother and it simply didn't make sense to him (v29-30). Similarly the scribes and Pharisees above saw Jesus having compassion on the lost and it didn't make sense to them. In their narcissism they couldn't quantify His actions; actually according to their measurement, what He was doing not only didn't make sense, it was wrong (many today gripe at the idea of God's love being reckless).


I love that Jesus looked at them and thought of what would help them understand and therefore used these two parables that if anything would stir up something that resonated, a shepherd losing his sheep, or a woman losing her money would. These people may hate tax collectors and sinners but perhaps they love their pets and for sure we know they are lovers of money (Luke 16:14) therefore Christ is meeting them in a way that might give them insight into why He was choosing not to hang out with them but with these sinners. In fact, God coming to the earth is Him accomplishing this very mission:


And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.” - Luke 5:29-32


If you do not understand the love God operates in you're going to struggle to make sense of these parables. You cannot take the love of God and shove it into a box of it being merely of His will as if it was somehow separated or independent from who He is. That--THAT I believe is the very purpose of these parables, to show that God is not merely choosing to be loving, but love is who He is! (1 John 4:8,16). And like the shepherd who lost his sheep or the woman who lost her coin, it compels Him to act with no regard for Himself! (1 Cor. 13:5). Similarly to how God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18), He likewise cannot NOT pursue the lost because of His love for them, and He cannot NOT celebrate with great rejoicing when they are found (Luke 15:32). It's a type of love that can't be quantified, nor can it be reasoned down any further.


Jesus said you'll know a tree by it's fruit (Mat. 7:17-18), a good tree will always bear good fruit and a bad tree will always bear bad fruit. "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." - Luke 6:45. These verses also apply to God. God is a perfectly good tree and all His actions (fruit) reflect that. God cannot lie because their is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5), in other words because God's nature is good, God's actions are good and it can be no other way.


Question: What is your heart so invested in that should you lose one you would be compelled to relentlessly recover it?


I asked a similar question of my friends, that is, since there are not many shepherds roaming around in modern culture, what is a present day example that we could use today to help give understanding of God's love for the lost. Then I realized if a person can't fathom the examples Christ gives in this chapter, I'm not going to have any more success than He at reaching their heart. He's more wise, His Word is living and active (Heb. 4:12), and nobody is going to want to capture the hearts of their hearer more than He.


I want to though. It's arrogant of me to think I can. It was in my attempts at quantifying God's love that I realized it can't be quantified. You can't teach the brain a language only the heart understands. I wanted to explain how such love stays awake at night troubled in their heart about the 1 lost though 99 remain. I wanted to explain how love makes heart attachments that calculated actions will never grasp and therefore holds it's host hostage until it does something about it. I wanted to argue that love is limitless and therefore the value of the one lost is priceless in the heart of the beholder and cannot be reduced to a math equation. I quickly found that me trying to quantify it would be a gross injustice. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8,16) and the whole bible isn't enough to fully express Him to us (John 21:25, 1 Cor. 13:12), therefore foolish I would be to think I could.


I so desire that those who have no point of reference to fathom God's love would have their eyes opened to it. To see just how much He loves them that frees them to throw off all their chains and coming running just as they are, fully confident that they can take a running leap into His arms and see before they even get to Him that He's already looking for them, ready to run at moments notice with His arms open wide, ready to fully embrace them unabated, kiss them (v20), and celebrate with great rejoicing their having returned to Him safe (v32), just like He does for the two prodigal sons which we'll get into next.


Before you continue, take a moment to listen to this song that you may just enjoy the love Christ has for specifically you which this song so beautifully conveys.


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