THE Pharisees murmured because the Lord received the publicans and sinners and ate with them. The publicans were the tax-gatherers who were so hated by the Jews because they collected taxes for the Romans, and they were often unjust. The “sinners” were those who did not keep the many rules of the Pharisees. But the Lord loved every one, and those who were despised and discouraged were often more ready to receive His help than the proud Pharisees who thought that they were already good.
The Lord spoke three parables to teach us how He loves us even when we have done wrong, and how earnestly He desires to help us to repent and to come back to Him. The first is the parable of the lost sheep. You know how the shepherds in that country lived with their flocks in the fields, leading them from pasture to pasture, and to the spring of water. The shepherd went before and the sheep followed, He led them gently when they were tired, and carried the little lambs. At night he took them to the fold or stayed with them in the fields to protect them. As the shepherd brings back a stray sheep, so does the Lord, the good Shepherd, love to bring back any one who has wandered from Him. He rejoices too and angels rejoice when we bring back any gentle, innocent feeling that was becoming lost.
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. The second parable was about a silver piece which a woman lost, perhaps one of the coins which an Eastern woman wears for ornament on her forehead. She lighted the wick in her little shallow earthen lamp, and swept the bare earth floor. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.—Luke XV. 1-7.
And one other parable, teaching how kind and forgiving the Lord is, and that the Pharisees should have been glad to have the sinners come to Him.
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.—Luke XV. 11-32.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Three parables about loss (sheep, silver piece and son) >> Loss of good affections, true thought, good deed (Each parable teaches about the Lord’s care for some particular thing in human character)
Having a hundred sheep >> The Lord entrusts to each of us in childhood a full measure of gentle, innocent affections
Lost sheep >> As we grow older, we find that something of innocence and gentleness is missing
Rejoice with me >> We ought to make an earnest effort to regain innocence; the Lord will help us if we try, and angels will rejoice with us
Ten pieces of silver >> A full measure of heavenly intelligence (knowledge of what is right and of beautiful true thoughts which the Lord gives to us)
Lose a piece of silver >> To not be faithful to what we know is right
Light a candle, and sweep the house >> Use what truth we have to remove what is false and wrong from our minds
“The far country” >> A state very different from the good life which the Lord would have us live
There arose a mighty famine in that land >> Lack of Goods and Truths
Feeding swine and sharing their food >> Trying to find happiness in self-indulgent pleasures
When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him >> The Lord responds immediately when we repent and start a new life of spiritual duties and blessings
Fell on his neck, and kissed him >> Conjunction with the Lord
The best robe >> Beautiful, heavenly thoughts
Fatted calf >> The earnest affection of the heavenly life
Music and dancing >> The active pleasure of heavenly life
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found >> Joy comes from appreciating and being grateful for the Lord’s care (which is always with us)
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum