“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ Then 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 falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’’ And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still 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 to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here 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 older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’’”
My fellow believers, how are you?
Our God looked for sinners who were poor in body and spirit. In today’s Scripture passage, He said, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). What was the reason that the Lord said this? That’s because if you invite the rich and treat them to food, they will repay all of it and you won’t have any reward to receive from God. Through today’s Scripture passage, we are able to know that our Lord loves and saves the insufficient and weak more than the great and those who are well off.
Jesus Who Came to Those Who Were Revealed as Sinners
In today’s Scripture passage from Luke 15, Jesus invited tax collectors and sinners and shared food and the Word with them. Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee, but the people He invited were sinners such as the tax collectors. My fellow believers, what does this mean? Jesus invited and treated people who were obviously recognized as sinners, like tax collectors. Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to this earth in the flesh of man, shared food with tax collectors and sinners, and He spoke the Word of God to them. But the Pharisees and scribes at that time resented and persecuted Jesus for doing that. Jesus knew the hard hearts of the Pharisees and scribes and told them of the Word of the Truth through three parables.
The first of Jesus’ parables was about one lost sheep in a hundred.
The Lord said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7). This parable of the lost sheep is about the Providence of God’s salvation. Our Lord spoke in a parable, saying, “A person with a hundred sheep lost one. So, he left the ninety-nine in the wilderness and went to find the one lost sheep.”
What kind of person is the lost sheep here pointing to? Lost sheep imply people who are truly sinners; people who look for God to receive the remission of the sins in their hearts; people who know they are sinners; people who know that they will go to hell, and people who really know that they are lost to God. The shepherd looking for the one lost sheep means that God goes to look for lost people. My fellow believers, there are truly a lot of people who live in this world—almost 6.5 billion. But those who are lost to God aren’t more than one in a hundred or ten thousand.
Not all people are sheep who have lost their homes. Most people live well without any problems even though they don’t know God. But what other kinds of people are there? There are souls who struggle to solve the problem of their sins in their hearts. There are souls who earnestly look for God because they have lost their homes and don’t know where to go. They don’t know what to believe or how they should believe in God. God says that He looks for those souls and wants to clothe them in the grace of His salvation.
Our God used the expression that He leaves people who don’t have any problems and those who don’t worry about their souls and their problem of sin. What did the Lord who came to this earth and saved you and me say? He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32). That is true. The Lord never comes to those who pretend they are the righteous. Our Lord came to this earth for people who actually feel guilty because of the sins they have committed, because of their evil hearts, and because of the sins of their pasts and those they commit now. In other words, He came for those who have guilty consciences before God because of the sins in their hearts.
But what are people really like? Of a hundred people, ninety-nine don’t have guilty consciences. They live with absolutely no guilt of conscience. People who don’t have any pain in their God-given consciences and have no problems, those who have no guilt of conscience and live believing only in their own hearts cannot become God’s lost sheep. Of course God wanted to clothe all people in the salvation of the remission of sins. But because God wanted to find sinners and make them into the righteous, He told us through this Word today that there is one person in a hundred who will be truly saved.
I am sure that the Lord’s first parable here is for everyone in the world. All the people of the world must know that those that will be saved are one in a hundred. If you read the Old Testament, it says, “I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:14). A lot of people are actually living in this world, but there really aren’t many who meet the Lord. On the other hand, there are more people than can be counted who go to hell.
If a shepherd raised sheep and just left them in the wilderness to find one lost sheep, what would happen to the fold that was left? They all would either be devoured by wolves or starve to death. Simply speaking, it means that many people who can’t receive the Lord’s salvation are going down the wide road to destruction. That’s really the way it is. Many people are entering the road to destruction from God because of their sins and the price of those sins after living on this earth.
There are really a lot of people who are lost in God’s eyes, and there are quite a lot who will be destroyed. Many people are born on this earth, but it is really rare to find a person who has received the remission of sins in his heart.
All Those Who Are Lost
The Lord speaks in the second parable of the lost coin. The Lord said, “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10). Having joy at finding one lost sheep among a hundred, or one lost coin in ten, means finding people, sinners, who are lost to God.
When God finds a sinner, has him repent, has him receive the remission of sins, and makes him one of the righteous, and when He clothes that sinner in the grace of the remission of sins, He rejoices along with His servants. God’s servants also called the people in the neighborhood, rejoiced, and had a feast after finding the one lost soul. All of the three parables in today’s Scripture passage are about God saving sinners. God, through His servants, looks for those among the many people in the world who are truly sinners who are lost; those who realize that they are really people who cannot help but go to hell, and that they couldn’t be saved and so have gone to the point of suicide; those who have no will to live because they will be destroyed, and those who have absolutely no hope if not for God.
Truly, we who are God’s people must find those who are lost among all the many people who live on this earth. We must truly find and clothe in salvation before God those who have no hope if not for God, whose hearts are broken and wounded; those who suffer hardships because of the sins they’ve committed; those who agonize over the thought that they cannot but go to hell; those who have no righteousness, and those who hope for God’s salvation. It doesn’t work to just spread the gospel to anyone. We absolutely must correctly spread the gospel to those who are truly sinners before God and those who need Jesus. The Lord really did not come for people who think, “I don’t need Jesus. I can live well even without Jesus. I am not insecure at all or in distress because of sin even without Jesus. I’m fine.”
Those whom the Lord looks for are the other people. God is looking for people on this earth who aren’t satisfied even though they drink alcohol, sing, and dance. He is looking for people who now really want to meet God because they had no satisfaction even though they seek after every philosophy or religion; people who want to find the Truth and obtain it along with freedom and enjoy it, and souls who want to obtain satisfaction by meeting the Truth, and not anything else in this world. The Lord told His servants to find these souls.
That’s right. The Lord did not tell you and me today to spread the gospel to the rich or those with power. The Lord said that we must find those who are estranged, miserable, and search for God’s grace physically and spiritually. We must spread the gospel to them. Today’s Scripture passage is telling you and me to clothe those lost people in the grace of salvation by spreading this gospel to them.
Let us now look at the third parable the Lord spoke. “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son’” (Luke 15:11-19).
I will take this apart and explain it so you can understand it easily. A certain man had two sons, and the second son took his father’s property, left, and wasted it until he had become a penniless man. He couldn’t live properly in this world. It went so far that he wanted to eat the slop of pigs secretly, but he couldn’t even eat that to his heart’s content. So, he thought, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare,” and he wanted to return to his father’s house. As soon as he returned home, his father came out with no shoes, kissed his son on the mouth, put a ring on his finger, put nice shoes on him, clothed him in the best clothes, and took a calf and gave a feast to all the people in the neighborhood.
But the first son was displeased with the feast for his younger brother. So, he complained to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him” (Luke 15:29-30). So, what did his father say, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found” (Luke 15:31-32).
My fellow believers, this third parable of the Lord was spoken to the saints and servants of God in the Church. What are we actually like? God’s servants and His people who have received the remission of their sins first complain to the Lord daily that He doesn’t acknowledge them for serving Him in the Church in such difficulty. They say that He always tells them what to do and that He only treats well those who lived wastefully in this world, then came to listen to the gospel, received the remission of their sins, and attended Church. Then, it’s natural for them to have jealousy toward the new saints in their hearts. They are prone to harbor a grudge against God, thinking, “I sacrificed myself and served well as soon as I received the remission of sins in this Church. How did such a hopeless person receive salvation? Even if he has been saved, he’s got a long way to go before he becomes like me. But only that person is treated well and given interest by the Church.”
But, such a notion of the first son in today’s Scripture passage is clearly wrong. The Lord today is speaking to you and me who have received the remission of sins first and have become God’s servants and people first. He is saying, “You work really hard, but think that it is natural to have joy and have a feast when your younger brothers return.” That’s right. We have nothing to be jealous of. We must have joy with God. In other words, we must know the deep heart of God. So, what is God’s heart like? He has a feast and rejoices when a lost sinner returns and is saved. The love of God the Father is to bring the dead and the miserable back to life and bless them. Accordingly, we, as God’s servants who have received the remission of sins, must have the same hearts as God the Father.
The second son in today’s Scripture passage is a person who has returned to God’s bosom. He wanted to eat slop that pigs ate, but he couldn’t even eat that, and he thought, “I’m going to starve to death here. It would be better to return to my father’s country and become one of his laborers. I am his son, but I’ll work as one of his laborers.” So he returned to his father.
The Doctrines of the Religions of the World That Are Like Slop
Actually, all people who exist in this world are God’s children who are in the image of His likeness. Strictly speaking, all people of this world are precious souls who become God’s people and children in Jesus Christ. But those precious souls seek after the world, material things, lusts and pleasure, and then religions. The second son in today’s Scripture passage wanting to eat pig slop, but going hungry because he was unable to obtain even that, means people seeking after the religions of this world in vain. Religions can never give people satisfaction. Religions frequently tell people what to do, merely ask for their sacrifice, and can’t give them true satisfaction in their hearts. Of course, our God also makes His people work. But what is different between our God and the religions of the world? The grace of the remission of sins given us by God gives clear satisfaction to our souls. People who couldn’t obtain satisfaction by the religions of the world and are spiritually dying obtain true satisfaction in their souls by returning to Jesus Christ.
Think about yourselves for a moment. Could we obtain true satisfaction in any religions of the world? No, we couldn’t. No religion can give satisfaction to the souls of man. Weren’t you lost souls? Weren’t you and I lost souls? We were the one lost soul among a hundred, the one lost drachma among ten, and the lost son between the two sons. Weren’t we all that way?
All of us had the problem of sin. Even though we had sins in our hearts, the religions of the world couldn’t resolve that problem. We were actually people who couldn’t live properly without God. That’s right. You and I were each one of the lost sheep. My fellow believers, we must accurately recognize the fact that each of us was a lost person before God. We must accurately know that we were those kinds of people in our natures. This isn’t about other people; this is about us. We were the lost. Being lost here means death. You and I who were lost were people who would suffer destruction and ruin if not for God.
What will happen to a sheep that leaves the flock of a hundred in today’s Scripture passage? It falls into a serious situation. It comes to a cliff and falls and dies by trying to eat the grass at the bottom of the cliff or it goes to a wide field and is devoured by a wolf. This means that you and I are near suffering that kind of death in this evil world. The lost coin and the second son who left his home both refer to you and me. We were such people who had to die and could not help but go to hell. But what happened to us? Our Lord has met us. He has met us and completely saved us.
Do you believe that our Lord has met us and eliminated all our sins through the water and the blood? Think about it for a moment. If our Lord hadn’t taken all our sins through His baptism and received the judgment for them on the Cross in our steads, or if God the Father had not sent His Son Jesus Christ to this world and not done this righteous work for us, what hope would we have? We wouldn’t have any. We could not help but suffer destruction. So, we must bear this in mind. No matter how wonderful we are, no matter how smart and wise we are, and no matter how good we are, all of us were among those who are lost. We must keep this fact in mind.
My fellow believers, we could not but cry when we were born and will have to cry when we die, too. Even if the way we live seems different from one another, the end of our lives is inevitably the same: eternal destruction. You and I were all born with the fate of entering the fires of hell. But our Lord saved us who were going to live in that kind of miserable fate. He completely saved us through the grace of the remission of sins. We absolutely must realize this grace of our Lord. How great is the Lord’s grace? Think about it for a moment. How could we enjoy the peace of our hearts if not for the grace of the Lord? How could we live in joy? If not for the Lord, how could we laugh? We would be miserable without the Lord. We wouldn’t be able to believe anyone, we would deceive one another, and we would be hurt by one another. We would try to live well, but we wouldn’t be able to help but live miserable lives deprived by others of all our fortune. You and I were people who could not help but live miserable lives.
Do our lives turn out well if we try? Is there anything that goes well in our lives just because we try hard to achieve it? Satan is the one who says, “You can do it if you just try.” Many of those before us lived diligently, believing that saying. But did they all live happily until they died? Take a microphone and have interviews with the deceased.
Go before a grave and say, “Sorry, I know you’re sleeping. I am a reporter for Hephzibah Broadcasting. I’ll ask you about just one thing. Did you try hard while living on this earth or not?”
“Yes, I did.”
“So, did you believe in the philosophy that things would turn out well if you tried?”
“So, did you try because you thought that everything would turn out well, no matter what it was?”
“Yes, I believed that, and I tried hard while living.”
“So, did things happen like you believed?”
“No, they didn’t.”
“How many things didn’t turn out well?”
“Not a single thing turned out well.”
“OK, thank you.”
If you go to some other graves, you will hear others say, “I received the teaching of this world that said things would turn out well if I tried hard and lived accordingly, but it didn’t work.” Even if you go before several more graves and interview each one, you will hear that they died in desperation and nothing was accomplished from 100% of them. That’s right. There isn’t anyone in this world who has accomplished anything by his will. A person would be happy if just a tenth of what he hoped for was accomplished by his endeavors. They’d be happy with just a tenth of their expectations. People tried a lot all their lives, but man’s power is nothing. Things don’t turn out well by trying.
We Must Meet Jesus Who Is God’s Righteousness
My fellow believers, people who are lost before God must meet Him. He will then bless them, lead them in the blessed way, clothe them in good clothes, and put precious rings on their fingers. The father in today’s Scripture passage putting a ring on the finger of his returning son is speaking of the change of his status in life. Clothing him in good clothes means becoming the righteous, and putting shoes on his feet means putting the shoes of the gospel on him. The Lord thus made us into the children of God along with giving all God the Father’s blessings and letting us enjoy them all. These blessings are never obtained by trying. That is never the way they are.
If people want to live blessed lives, they must first meet the Good Shepherd. They must meet Jesus. They must receive the remission of their sins in their hearts by meeting Jesus. They must receive the remission of all their sins through Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. Jesus is our Savior. He took all our sins. He saved us from all our sins. He clothed us in the complete grace of salvation by taking all our sins on His body through His baptism and by receiving judgment for them on the Cross. Only people who have the Shepherd and receive the Lord in their hearts enjoy true peace. When the Good Shepherd leads them into green pastures and beside the still waters, those sheep who have met Him live while being filled, obtaining rest, and are peacefully protected for the first time.
My fellow believers, you and I have met the Lord who is the perfect Shepherd. Aren’t you truly thankful for having met Him? It is a big problem if you don’t know how to be thankful for having met the Lord. That kind of person is the same as the first son in today’s Scripture passage. They are in the same situation as the first son who used to complain. But we are not the first son. We are the second sons who were lost and then found. It is an amazing thing for us to believe that Jesus took our sins when He was baptized and that He shed His blood for receiving the judgment on the Cross instead of us. I hope that you don’t underestimate this faith. This is truly amazing. Where can you go and hear this Word of the Truth? You cannot hear it in any denomination of this world.
Let’s think for a moment of the Tabernacle that is the model of Jesus. There was a screen gate at the entrance of the Tabernacle that was woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. Thirty meters (one hundred feet) west of it was another screen door to the Sanctuary. It was also woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. The veil curtain that blocked the Most Holy Place and the inner curtains that covered the Sanctuary were also made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. What does this blue, purple, and scarlet thread refer to? It means the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we believe in. Your salvation cannot be accomplished by just believing in Jesus somehow. More accurately, we must believe in this gospel that was given by the Lord.
What is the first thing we must believe in when we start believing in Jesus? We must believe that He received the transference of all our sins by being baptized in the Jordan River. That’s the first thing we have to believe. The second thing is that Jesus shed His blood on the Cross and received all the judgment for us. Saints who have received the remission of sins in their hearts by faith must now enter into and live in God’s house, do God’s work while living there, and live adopting what is God’s as their own. God supplies us with what we need.
We have received the remission of sins. This may seem to be nothing to you, but that is actually not the case. Let some time go by. Then, ask yourself if it really isn’t anything. Rather, if you return to the world after receiving the remission of sins, you are nothing. At that time, you really become nothing. You become more miserable than you were before. All the diseases you had before return and all your previous pain comes back. More difficulties than before actually come and torment you. So, my fellow believers, I hope that you get your heads on straight.
Above all else, we must know that the Lord found weak sinners and saved them. We must also realize that we who have become the Lord’s workers prior to others by receiving the remission of our sins, must personally find lost souls and bring them back before God. There are quite a lot of lost souls before God in this world. There are a lot of people who live without knowing the fact that they are lost souls.
People in the world are all lost. They are all sinners. They are all people who must receive the remission of sins by believing in this gospel of the water and the Spirit. But those who have now received the remission of sins are extremely few. Jesus came to people who really thought they could not but go to hell and who had no hope in their hearts, and He really eliminated all people’s sins. He completely saved them. Our Lord never came to find people who think, “I’m fine without Jesus. I don’t need Him.” He comes to them but leaves them in disappointment.
Don’t treat people too well who live well and have a lot of money in this world. They are people who will go to a hot place after living well without Jesus. However, there are still many people on this earth who cannot enjoy satisfaction even though they have property, fame, power, and even religion. There are people who really want to find the true God and receive the remission of their sins. This means that there are lost souls before God. It means that there are people who know the fact that they are lost. Those are the kinds of people whom we have to find. We must find them and preach the Lord’s gospel to them.
We can classify those who visit the Church for the first time into two groups. One of them is people who think they weren’t lost. These people don’t believe us, no matter what we say. They are not lost sheep before God. Because they aren’t lost people, they can’t receive God’s salvation, either.
What is the other kind of people then? There are people who come to our Church who think they are among the lost. They say, “I have sins and it’s hard for me to live in this world. I don’t know anything and things are hard. It would be nice if someone saves me.” When we tell them of their sinful nature based on the Word of God, they say, “That’s right. I’m that kind of person.” If we preach to those who acknowledge themselves the gospel Word that Jesus saved them by the water and the blood, they immediately believe in Jesus and naturally become His people. That is how it actually is. Those people who know their original natures become the righteous before God and become His children, and they can live forever in the Kingdom of God.
There are two kinds of people no matter where you go: those who are lost and those who aren’t. There are two kinds of people who visit the Church and there are two kinds of people in the world. What were you and I who have already received the remission of sins like? We were the lost. We were among those who were lost.
Those who haven’t yet received the remission of their sins even though they have been preached the Lord’s gospel are people who aren’t lost. We must work hard to till their hearts until they realize that they are lost people. We must till their hardened hearts and wait until they realize themselves that they are the lost. We must continually find those people. Do you believe that you and I who have already received the remission of our sins were the lost? Do you believe the fact that we were found by God and have been saved? Only people who believe that can receive God’s true grace of salvation.
I give thanks to the Lord who has saved us. We must become faithful servants of God who are always thankful for the Lord’s grace and who try to find the weak and the lost.