Intro: Every person develops a reputation—the opinion people have about us—over time based on the behavior that is demonstrated in our relationships whether personal, work, leisure, etc. If we have a habit of acting unjustly, disrespecting others, or making negative or condemning statements, we will develop a bad reputation. Depending on how often we display this poor character, we can gain a bad reputation very quickly. Unfortunately, it is hard to lose or repair a bad reputation once we have set it into motion. Only humility and grace can bring healing and restoration.
In our passage today, the tax collectors—those working for the Roman government—have established a bad reputation of corruption with the Jewish people. In fact, any Jew who became a tax collector was consider a traitor, as well as a thief—a notorious sinner. Jesus was aware of all these accusations, but the bad reputation of these tax collectors did not detour him from spending time with them. Jesus was determined to be a Voice of Truth for the sinners; he was not worried about his own reputation being soiled. However, the religious leaders and Pharisees saw the tax collectors as unworthy of God’s love, so sharing a meal with them was considered unthinkable, as well as spiritually defiling. The Pharisees’ image of their piety was as wrong as the tax-collectors’ image of their corruption, so Jesus reminded them every person’s way of life needs to be changed.
Jesus uses a parable to explain why he was willing to spend time with sinners: He felt deep sorrow for them because they were like lost sheep in need of a shepherd. In the Old Testament, God is pictured as the Shepherd of Israel who cares about his people’s well-being (Ps 23). In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd. Since the religious shepherds of Israel failed to show concern for God’s people who were lost in sin, Jesus proved faithful as the Shepherd who laid down his life for the lost (John 10:11).
We can all wander away from our Shepherd and the protection of his care; however, we may face the difficult consequences of our sin when we do so. May we never forget the gift of mercy and grace, as well as the goodness of God to come and find us in order to lift us from sin and restore us in relationship with Father. May we live with gratitude that God changes our identity by making us his children, so our reputation can begin anew when we are born again. In Christ, we are a new person—the old life is gone…a new life has begun (2 Cor 5:17). Have a blessed weekend! Hope to see you Sunday!
Luke 15:1-7 VOICE
1 Jesus became increasingly popular among notorious sinners—tax collectors and other social outcasts. 2 The Pharisees and religious scholars noticed this.
Pharisees and Religious Scholars: This man welcomes immoral people and enjoys their company over a meal!
Jesus (with another parable): 3-4 Wouldn’t every single one of you, if you have 100 sheep and lose one, leave the 99 in their grazing lands and go out searching for the lost sheep until you find it? 5 When you find the lost sheep, wouldn’t you hoist it up on your shoulders, feeling wonderful? 6 And when you go home, wouldn’t you call together your friends and neighbors? Wouldn’t you say, “Come over and celebrate with me, because I’ve found my lost sheep”? 7 This is how it is in heaven. They’re happier over one sinner who changes his way of life than they are over 99 good and just people who don’t need to change their ways of life.
Prayer: Father, as your children, may we care greatly about the reputation we are developing while we are in this fallen world. Our lives need to emulate your beauty and holiness. Please continue to bring change to our lives, so by our attitudes and actions we begin to emulate your character and reputation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.