We have a set of 3 challenging parables in today’s 15th chapter of Luke. The chapter starts with a comment that “the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled” because “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear” Jesus. These religious leaders were all suffering from self-righteousness!
A fundamental point for us to make sure we have in mind – is that no one can ‘earn’ a place in God’s kingdom because of their own righteousness. The gospels have many examples of those who thought they could, through keeping the Law. But, as Paul told the Galatians, “if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” [2 v.21] Down through the centuries there have been, it seems, all too many examples of self-righteousness.
After telling those who were “drawing near to hear him” – the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin – and the rejoicing after they were found – Jesus makes two comments’ First, in v. 7, we read ”I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” than over any of those who feel self-righteous! His point is emphasized in v.`10 “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The reference to the involvement of angels in this “joy” is intriguing. We recall the reference to “the multitude of the heavenly host praising God” at the birth of Jesus that we read in ch. 2 v.13,14. When we come to ch. 20 on Sunday we will read that “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection … cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels …” [v.35,36]
This leads us to meditate – and marvel – at the reference to the work of “the angels” now! Yes, we marvel and we ponder the wonder of the last 2 verses of the 1st ch. of Hebrews where we read the declaration – “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
Finally, how long now before these “ministering spirits” will have “more joy” – for our Lord “will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth …” [Mark 13 v.27] as their and our Lord is “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” [v.26]
In this almost totally evil world, may we all so live, that we are able to join Paul in saying what he wrote in his final letter, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” [2 Tim. 1 v.12] Let us meditate on the things “entrusted” to each one of us.