But instead of focusing on the Miracle Maker in front of them, they were too concerned with preconceived notions and ideals.
As a little girl, I constantly saw my mom interact with the low and needy people of this world. From the homeless man begging on the side of the street to the woman in need of food for her dog, if my mom saw a need, she provided for it. To this day, she still does.
Now, as a twenty-something who has no idea what she is doing in life, I find myself drawn to those people. And though fear often tries to hold me back, it is the look in their eyes that penetrates my soul. For even if they do not really need the help or are just a con, I hear Jesus say, whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me.
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40, KJV).
Sacred or Secular?
In Luke 15, beginning with verse 1, Jesus tells a similar story.
While Jesus is busy dining with sinners and the least of these, the Pharisees and religious scholars at the table are appalled. How could a really religious man find Himself at the feet of those who were filthy from the inside out? How could a true King place Himself in such a place of dishonor? How could a man claiming to heal and take away sins in His perfection associate with those far less than pure?
But instead of focusing on the Miracle Maker in front of them, they were too concerned with preconceived notions and ideals. Thoughts as to how Jesus should act or how they expected His behaviors to display themselves. While they were upset that Jesus associated Himself with sinners, eating with them (dining), and having them in His presence, they should have been concerned with the state of their ignorant and sinful hearts.
Love or Judgment?
If they truly cared about what the religious law represented and instituted, the Pharisees and religious scholars would have chosen love over judgment. They would have chosen acceptance over pre-justified affairs. They would have seen Jesus for who He was rather than who they predicted and wished He would be.
Both then and now, God calls us to love Him and love others. This is why people say the saving grace and mantra of the Bible can be boiled down to these two principles:
"“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV).
Yet those who believed they were righteous (like the Pharisees and religious leaders) were actually the worst of all sinners. They were the ones in the most signficant need and didn't realize it. They were the ones who needed to humble themselves but would rather nit-pick everyone else. They were the first to cast blame when the blame should have been cast on themselves.
They were, as Paul writes, "the worst of all sinners" without even realizing it.
"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV).
Lost or Found?
To illustrate this point to those deemed to be "religious," Jesus used the parable of the Lost Sheep. While we all know the story, the message is simple. If a shepherd lost one sheep, though he has one hundred, he will search for it. And when he finds it and brings it home, there is more joy for that one lost sheep than the ninety-nine already home.
The same is true for us. We are the sheep. Jesus is the Shepherd. If we stray and are found, what joy is there in Heaven? We were lost, but now we are found. We were sinful, and now we are saved. We were wretches, and now we are redeemed.
But the most beautiful part of this story is not that we are sinners who have repented and been saved, though that is great news that brings even greater joy. It is the fact that He, Jesus Christ, leaves the ninety-nine others to search for the one that is lost until He finds it.
"Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:3-7, NIV).
And when He has found it, He will joyfully carry it home on His shoulders!
Right and Wrong Affairs
The Pharisees were concerned with the wrong affairs. They didn't understand that one lost sheep found was far better off than those claiming never to be lost.
For, "there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10, NIV), and there is joy in acknowledging our lost states of brokenness, anxiety, and despair.
Today, I still struggle with the assurance of salvation. I have said the sinner's prayer thousands of times and meant every single one. I acknowledge that I am the worst of all sinners and that it is only through a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that I am saved.
Yet, I am still growing. Still free to struggle with the trials of this life. Still capable of wrestling with what comes my way.
There are times and days I feel lost. Not because I have intentionally sinned, but because I have let the worries and cares of this life grow too big, and my view of Him grow too small.
He Finds the One
But in this place, praise God that He comes and rescues me. He finds the one no matter where I am, and He rejoices in my wandering. Even wandering I do not want to happen; it just does.
The best part about Jesus running after me and you is that He does not judge us like the Pharisees and religious scholars do (those who act perfect, holy, righteous, and judgemental).
He does not tell me, "Amber, you need more faith, and your anxiety is not real."
He does not ridicule me for my wandering, nor does He shun me for mistakes.
He does not judge me for acknowledging I am lost but rejoices to know in Him alone I am found.
Jesus welcomes all of us with open arms. He welcomes us in love.
It is time we do the same for others who cross our path. Sinners and saints alike. No matter where they are. Lost or found.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/utah778
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Video credit: ©RhondaStoppe/SWN