SERMON FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, JULY 6, 2014
LUKE 15:1-10
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Imagine yourself as a judge. Your job would consist of seeing people defending their actions, or sometimes, lack of actions. You would hear stories, excuses, blame, lies, and much more. However, you would not hear too many parables. Imagine a defendant in court beginning his defense, saying something along the lines of, “Judge, my defense is like a shepherd with 100 sheep, who then loses one…” Now this parable would not go over very well in the judicial system, yet this is essentially how Jesus defends himself to the Pharisees.


Luke gives us this moment in Jesus’ ministry where tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to him. They wanted to hear what Jesus was saying. They wanted to be a part of what it was that Jesus was offering them. And Jesus showed them mercy. Yet, there was a different type of crowd present, the Pharisees and the scribes. They were not interested in drawing near to Jesus, but rather, in criticizing and slandering him. In doing so, they accused him of receiving sinners and eating with them. This accusation derived from common knowledge of that any good and righteous Jew knew that associating yourself with sinners, made you unclean too. If Jesus was this great Rabbi, then he surely was not acting the part. Instead of surrounding himself with other religious, prestigious leaders, he surrounded himself and ate with unclean sinners in fellowship.

SERMON FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, JULY 6, 2014
LUKE 15:1-10
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Imagine yourself as a judge. Your job would consist of seeing people defending their actions, or sometimes, lack of actions. You would hear stories, excuses, blame, lies, and much more. However, you would not hear too many parables. Imagine a defendant in court beginning his defense, saying something along the lines of, “Judge, my defense is like a shepherd with 100 sheep, who then loses one…” Now this parable would not go over very well in the judicial system, yet this is essentially how Jesus defends himself to the Pharisees.


Luke gives us this moment in Jesus’ ministry where tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to him. They wanted to hear what Jesus was saying. They wanted to be a part of what it was that Jesus was offering them. And Jesus showed them mercy. Yet, there was a different type of crowd present, the Pharisees and the scribes. They were not interested in drawing near to Jesus, but rather, in criticizing and slandering him. In doing so, they accused him of receiving sinners and eating with them. This accusation derived from common knowledge of that any good and righteous Jew knew that associating yourself with sinners, made you unclean too. If Jesus was this great Rabbi, then he surely was not acting the part. Instead of surrounding himself with other religious, prestigious leaders, he surrounded himself and ate with unclean sinners in fellowship.


Jesus could’ve simply ignored the accusations from the Pharisees because his actions did not need to be justified. Yet he chooses to defend himself. Not out of desperation, but on his own accord; and he does so in a unique fashion – by telling parables. When parables are spoken by Jesus, sometimes, those listening do not always understand. Yet in this context, Scripture implies that the Pharisees understood these parables, and they did not draw near to him, but ridiculed him for speaking against them.


Jesus begins with two parables: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. A similar pattern takes place in both parables. The setting of the two begins with a person – in this case – a shepherd and a woman, and ONE of their possessions are lost. The shepherd loses one of his sheep into the wilderness – while the woman loses one of her ten silver coins.


After these things have been lost, Jesus states, “What man or woman does not leave and go after the one that is lost?” If you have ever lost anything, then you know that Jesus is simply stating the obvious. When something important is lost and goes missing, life comes to a complete halt until it is found. If you have ever lost your keys, wallet, purse, or smart phone, then you have probably experienced this feeling. This moment when everything comes to a complete halt, which is exactly what happens in both parables.


The shepherd leaves his flock of ninety-nine, while the woman begins her assumedly frantic search for the lost coin. And when these things are found, the shepherd and the woman draw near to the once lost object – and rejoicing begins! The shepherd lays the sheep on his shoulders and rejoices as he carries the sheep back home: for this sheep was lost, but now found. The woman grips her coin while rejoicing: for this coin was lost, but now found. Both the shepherd and the woman go to their friends and neighbors, and say, “Rejoice with me! For I have found what I was looking for!”


This is because joy is contagious – Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Both the shepherd and the woman looked to get the full value of their joy, by finding friends and neighbors to divide it with saying, “Rejoice with me!”


Everyone here has felt joyous times. Also, I imagine we have all felt anxiety at times of loss. So let’s consider the moment that the disciples felt a profound sense of loss. In their minds, they lost their King in an unexpected turn of events. These events led up to Jesus being hung on the cross and the disciples were left feeling confused and hopeless. A few days earlier, they believed that Jesus was the Son of God who came as King of all, to redeem His people and all of creation. However, no king was to die this death set aside for thieves and murderers. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ desired destination was Jerusalem. When he finally arrives at Jerusalem, authorities end up taking him outside of the city, and crucifying him. Symbolizing that he was unworthy to be among the people in the city. Clearly, this does not seem like a fitting end for the life of a king. Let alone a Messiah, for the disciples believe he was going to usher in the eternal kingdom, which death was not part of the plan.


So, on that Good Friday, the disciples had thought that they lost their Messiah. They had forgotten his words, and lost hope in what they once had. Yet, when the women went to find Jesus’ body in the tomb, all they found was an empty tomb. Now the women thought they had physically lost the body of Jesus. However, it wasn’t the women that found Jesus, but Christ that found them – in His resurrected body – and the women rejoiced! Just as the shepherd and the woman in the parables had done, the women also ran to their friends and neighbors, in order to rejoice with them in what had been found.


For Jesus was never lost, but it was the hope of his followers that was lost – now, this hope was found again in the resurrected body of Christ. Jesus knew where he was going, and had even spoken to his disciples about it, but in their anxiety, they forgot what they were told.


For the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, doesn’t speak through the perspective of the sheep or coin, but in the perspective of the shepherd and the woman. This is because Jesus is speaking through his perspective. He is the shepherd and the woman – and we are the sheep and the coin. In our sin, we are lost, separated from the flock – and as a coin, we have lost all value – because a lost coin cannot be redeemed.


Yet in the midst of us being lost, in the midst of our sin, in the midst of our internal rebellion, while we are blasphemers, persecutors, and insolent opponents, Jesus comes seeking us – drawing us near to him. He does so, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because he delights in his unconditional love – As Paul states in 1 Timothy, For he came into the world to save sinners. In the same way that a sheep’s identity is found in his shepherd – or a silver coin’s identity in its owner. We, being sinners, find our identity in the crucified and resurrected Christ Jesus.


In the same way that Jesus received sinners and ate with them during his earthly ministry, he still receives us, as sinners today, and invites us to his table for fellowship. Drawing near to Christ, we hear him rejoicing, “For you were lost, but now found!” For Christ first found us in the saving waters of Baptism – Rescuing us from death and the devil, and giving eternal salvation to those in faith. By casting all our sins into the depths of the sea – and now continues to receive us in joy and delight in His steadfast love. No longer do you have a lost identity, but you are found in Christ. Receiving in his mercy, love and forgiveness, he continues to seek you at the Lord’s Table – and he proclaims to you, “Rejoice with me!” – As once a lost sheep is carried home on the shepherd’s shoulders, Jesus, being the Good Shepherd, draws you near to him and rejoices as he carries you on his shoulders into your eternal home.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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