Repentance and Joy in Heaven
Read Luke 15:1-32
“There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.”
Christ again was doing the unthinkable in the eyes of the Pharisees. He was associating with the dreaded tax collectors and sinners. It is one thing for Jesus to denounce sin, that the Pharisees would have found palatable. But Jesus was actually gaining a following with the tax collectors, even sharing meals with them. So, they were mortified. How could a righteous man identify himself with sinners? This raised a critical underlying question: How can a holy God associate with sinners? This interaction sets up three parables serving to answer this critical question.
The first is the parable of the lost sheep. The marvel of the story is that the shepherd would leave the 99, potentially putting them at risk, in order to search for the one lost sheep. This parable serves to provide an important insight into the value God places on each of us. God’s redemptive work is not just for the indiscriminate masses. God’s redemptive work is individual. We are brought into the kingdom become God loved you and me individually and specifically sought us out.
The second parable is the lost coin. In this parable we find the picture of God diligently and carefully searching for each individual to be brought into his kingdom. God does not just offer salvation, he diligently searches for us, pursuing us to bring us salvation.
The third parable is a well-known story of the prodigal son. However, in this parable, the story is not about the one son who was lost, but two prodigal sons and the father’s desire to restore his relationship with both of them. The first prodigal son is the one who dived into the ocean of sin and self-indulgence before finally coming back to his father. The second prodigal son, who became equally estranged from his father, was the oldest son who stays but allowed his bitterness to come between himself and his father.
While each of these parables shares different nuances, they each illustrate three important truths. First, God deeply cares for each person and diligently seeks us. Second, the requirement to be restored is the same, that the answer to the question of how a holy God can associate with sinners is found in repentance. When we acknowledge our sin and turn to Christ for mercy, he freely and completely forgives.
The third point made in each of these parables is the picture of God’s response to the repentant sinner. Rather than respond with a yawn of indifference, or the angry look of a wrathful God, God is pictured as greatly rejoicing. In each parable, God throws a party in celebration of our response to him! It is even more vividly pictured in the parable of the prodigal son, in which the father’s joy bursts forth in exuberance as he runs to embrace his son. In this parable, the father is seen looking for the return of his wayward son day after day in hope of his return. When he does return, the father does not see a rebellious son who is ravished by the effects of his own self-indulgence. Instead, he sees a son who has returned home, one he embraces in euphoric love in spite of his barnyard smell and pitiful condition. Such is the picture of our heavenly father. God is willing to embrace us if we are willing to repent and turn to him. In the joy of the father, we find the basis for our joy in spite of the trials of the day. Today just reflect on the deep love of a forgiving Father who rejoices when you seek him.