Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 15:1-10
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 19–Sunday Between September 11 and 17 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4″Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Grumbling
The Pharisees and scribes grumble at the mere sight of Jesus being at table with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus should know better than to associate with this band of the legally unrighteous (cf. Psalm 1). “Grumbling” is an expression (and here, it is audible sarcasm) of dissatisfaction and disapproval. But that kind of expression is not simply limited to the religious elite. Even the most adamant sinner among us grumbles.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: “Needing No Repentance”
(Self-righteous/Arrogant) The internal presupposition for such grumbling is coined in Jesus’ own words as those who “need no repentance.” The question is not whether that is true (it is). But self-righteousness is certainly in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees–and in the hearts of all who grumble disapproval or dissatisfaction with an air of superiority. For all we know, that sense that one “needs no repentance” may have also rubbed off on the “tax collectors and sinners,” tempting them to think that maybe the “self-righteous” really are superior. That would be their–the known sinners’–unfaith to go along with the unfaith of the scribes and Pharisees.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Lost
The ultimate matter that must be considered–maybe the only thing that really matters–is what ruling God makes about all this class conflict. That ruling is not favorable for the “sinners and tax collectors,” for they are already characterized in the parables of Jesus in the role of the “lost.” But the scribes and Pharisees do not fare any better. They, too, are lost. They can, of course, continue to take their chances with the Law. That alternate soteriology (reason for salvation) is an option; but if Jesus is correct in describing God, that option looks quite bleak.

PROGNOSIS: Losing to Find (Win)

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Found
The ultimately promising truth that cancels out the problem of lostness is that “finding the lost” is precisely why Jesus came. Though he must lose in the process of finding us, that is the supreme victory. Jesus says that God and the angels of heaven rejoice over the finding of such lost ones. God is tickled pink in noticing the lost in every corner, whenever they may be found, whoever they might be–whether tax collector, sinner, scribe or Pharisee. God, in fact, does rejoice in the finding, in the uplifting upon his shoulders, in the scouring every nook and cranny of every dark corner of humanity (searching the house).

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: “Coming Near to Listen”(Repentant)
That kind of “good news” might cause even the most sinful to perk up his or her ears to tune in to the saving Word. Such “tuning in” is termed by Jesus as “repentance,” which means literally “turning around,” turning away from any claims to fame or pride and turning toward the only claim we can make–we are unworthy sinners; but with Jesus as our Found-er, we are so much more. We are God’s precious find.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Rejoicing
That can lead to a whole new outlook on life, leading to a whole new expression. There is more to life than grumbling about what we don’t have, especially when we have so much Life to celebrate. God seems interested in partying–and who are we to argue? The world is the showcase for that celebration–and the celebration has an open-ended invitation.


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