Joy in heaven – Luke 15:1-10

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” *  No doubt he was right.  The stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 give us some insight into that serious business of heaven’s joy.  The context is set up for us by Luke.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The self-righteous see sinners and reject them.  Jesus never affirms us in our sin, but he sure enjoys the company of sinners.  And they seem to consistently enjoy him.  He illustrates his attitude toward them, first with a story about sheep.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

For Jesus and for his Father, it was joyful seeking and saving the lost.  A sinner who repents brings joy to heaven.  We probably can’t fathom the full extent of the serious business of such joy.  Jesus goes on.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Again the lost is found. The sinner repents.  Again, according to Jesus, heaven and the angels of God get down to the serious business of joy.

If we want to make heaven joyful, we should be asking ourselves what the best sort of repentance looks like.  Jesus makes it clearer in his next story.  Read the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 to learn more.

The shepherd, the woman and the father in the stories all stand for God.  The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost – that is, the prodigal – son all stand for the sinner who repents, who is lost, but is then found.  We need to all see ourselves in the place of the prodigal, the lost sheep or the lost coin.  God seeks us out, and when he finds us, we repent and turn to him. 

So yes, there is a sort of tension between God doing the seeking and finding and our repenting.  He does something and we do something.  It isn’t one or the other, it is both at the same time.  We need not worry about whether God is going to do his part, but whether we do, that is another question.

Let’s make heaven rejoice by turning wholeheartedly back to God.  Saving sinners is serious business and a serious cause for joy.  It took Jesus going to the cross to accomplish the task.  Does that sound joyful to you?  In a way, it was.  Let’s close with Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

* in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 93.

A Prayer about Heavenly Treasure Prompted by Luke 12:32-34

Dear Father,

Our hearts are too often here on earth, while we know from all that you have said that they should be in heaven.  Help us to change our focus.

Moreover, thank you for telling us what to do in order to change it.  Let us intentionally use our lives, our energy and our possessions to store up treasure where it really belongs – in heaven with you.  Remind us when we are working too much or too hard for the things of this world.  We fully expect that as we work for true, imperishable riches, our hearts will follow the treasure that we store up.  

Help us to live our lives in such a way that treasure in heaven will be provided as a result.  Our hearts belong with you and that is where we want them to be.

In Christ,


Our treasure will lead our hearts – Luke 12:32-34

32 Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus begins by reassuring us that it is the Father’s “good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  It is not something we have to compete for, haggle over or bid on like participants in an auction.  He wants to give the kingdom to us as members of his royal family.  But do we want what the Father wants to give?

Maybe.  Or yes, probably so, deep down, when we are quietly thinking about the subject.  But how often do we think so quietly?  In the systematic blur of day-to-day endeavors and obstacles, we may never quietly think about we want deep down and long-term.  By “long-term” I mean in eternity.  Really long-term.  

Jesus knows this about us.  So he immediately teaches us how to get our hearts in the right place.  The next two verses tell us how to get our hearts in proper alignment with God’s, and it all starts with our treasure.

It may involve giving up some of our treasure here on earth, such as selling things and giving to the needy.  There is be more to it, of course, but it is not Jesus’s goal to give us a lengthy how-to lesson.  That might only bog us down in the details and distract us from his ultimate priority.  He wants us to store up treasure in heaven.  In part, that is so we will have treasure in heaven, plain and simple, which is, in itself, is a good thing.  There is, however, something else.

Storing up treasure in heaven taps into an overriding and stable principle, which is where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Jesus wants us to invest in heaven, because the treasure we have there will ultimately lead our hearts into alignment with God’s while we still inhabit the earth. 

We need some skin in the game.  If we don’t invest in our heavenly future, we will remain stupidly focused on the here and now.  Yet both experience and observation indicate that the here and now becomes the there and then all too soon.  Heaven is eternal. There we find moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”  

Heaven is where our Father eternally resides.  Heaven is where Jesus is now and that is where he wants our hearts.  Our hearts invariably follow our treasure; our treasure will lead our hearts.

Mark 9 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

This chapter starts with the event known as the Transfiguration.  After healing a boy with a demon, Jesus proceeds through teaching on discipleship, heaven and hell.

Mark 09.pdf     (Omar Yamout)

Mark 09.mp3   (Omar Yamout)