As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, we see his triumphal entry. Before that we will get lessons on stewardship and the lordship of Christ.
Here is a link to the livestream video:
In Luke 18:24-25, after his interaction with the rich (young) ruler, Jesus declares,
24 … How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
It is difficult, but not impossible, because, as Jesus points out, in v.27,
What is impossible with man is possible with God.
In Luke 19, we get an example.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
For the rich ruler in the last chapter, eternal life was something of an ambition. It was a goal he hoped to achieve. “What would it take for me to get it?” He asked, assuming there was some particular effort or accomplishment from his side that would merit such a prize. When Jesus challenged him to give up his possessions, he became sad. He never saw that coming.
We might suppose the ruler’s riches were, in his mind, a sign of his virtue. He was either from a well-bred, respectable family or had earned his way to riches through honest work and astute business acumen. Satisfied with the status he enjoyed, he saw eternal life as the same sort of thing. “Good people like me are rewarded by God, ” was the basis of his religious and ethical philosophy. This is really the opposite of grace and is an outlook which leaves no room for repentance.
Zacchaeus is different. He seems to value Jesus more than anything else. Being short and unable to see the Savior, he is content to climb a tree to get a glimpse of him. Jesus freely offering to come to his house is a completely unmerited blessing. Without any prompting, he intuitively grasps that his dishonest gains are an issue. This is “fruit in keeping with repentance” as John the Baptist might have called it. The greedy, wealthy swindler has become generous. A rich man has entered the kingdom.
In response to some grumbling by the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus gives three parables. They are that of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost (or Prodigal) Son.
Here is a link to the livestream video: https://www.facebook.com/horizoncentral/videos/3018444638224566/
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. 2 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.
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 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.’ 7 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.
8 “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? 9 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, 2 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.