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Rejoicing Over the Sinner Who Repents

Rejoicing Over the Sinner Who Repents

LUKE 15:1-10



At various times during his ministry, Jesus has emphasized the importance of humility. (Luke 14:8-11) He is eager to find men and women who desire to serve God humbly. Up till now, some of them may still be notorious sinners.

The Pharisees and scribes notice that such individuals​—people whom they consider unworthy—​are drawn to Jesus and his message. They complain: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) The Pharisees and scribes feel superior and treat the common people like dirt under their feet. Reflecting the contempt they have for such ones, the leaders use the Hebrew expression ‛am ha·’aʹrets, “people of the land [earth]” to refer to them.

In contrast, Jesus treats all with dignity, kindness, and compassion. Many of the lowly ones, including some who are known to be practicing sin, are thus eager to listen to Jesus. How, though, does Jesus feel about and respond to the criticism that he is receiving for helping such lowly ones?

The answer becomes clear as he presents a touching illustration, similar to one he earlier gave in Capernaum. (Matthew 18:12-14) Jesus presents things as if the Pharisees are righteous and safe in the fold of God. In contrast, the lowly people are presented as ones who have gone astray and who are in a lost state. Jesus says:

“What man among you with 100 sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the 99 behind in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home, he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”​—Luke 15:4-6.

What application does Jesus make? He explains: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”​—Luke 15:7.

Jesus’ mention of repentance must strike the Pharisees. They consider themselves to be righteous and feel they have no need of repentance. When some of them criticized Jesus a couple of years earlier because he was eating with tax collectors and sinners, he replied: “I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17) The self-righteous Pharisees fail to see their need to repent, and thus they bring no joy in heaven. It is just the opposite when sinners truly repent.

Reinforcing his point that the restoration of lost sinners is a cause for great rejoicing in heaven, Jesus presents another illustration, one set in a family home: “What woman who has ten drachma coins, if she loses one of the drachmas, does not light a lamp and sweep her 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 drachma coin that I had lost.’”​—Luke 15:8, 9.

The application Jesus makes is similar to the one he made after giving the illustration of the lost sheep. He now says: “In the same way, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”​—Luke 15:10.

Imagine, God’s angels show deep interest in the restoration of lost sinners! That is particularly significant because the sinners who repent and gain a place in God’s heavenly Kingdom will have a position higher than that of the angels themselves! (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3) Yet the angels do not feel jealous. How, then, should we feel when a sinner turns to God in full repentance?