In Luke 15 we find some Pharisees grumbling about Jesus associating with sinners and tax collectors. The Pharisees were appalled, yet these “sinners” were exactly the people whom Jesus sought to included in His Kingdom (“For the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost,” Luke 19:10). Rather than argue with these grumblers (grumblers gonna grumble, right?), Jesus told a story. In fact, Jesus told three stories. These three parables are to be seen together. They follow the same pattern (until a twist at the end) and largely cover the same theme: people rejoicing when they find something that was lost. We’ve all been there. I lose my cell phone at least once a week (I’ve got a problem). And when I find it (or more likely, when Kristin finds it), I celebrate. I do a little dance.  In these stories, Jesus talks about the rejoicing of a shepherd who found his lost sheep, a woman who found her lost coin, and a father who found his lost son returning home. These aren’t just random stories… we’re talking about Jesus after all. He’s a master storyteller. These stories of celebration when the lost is found are a reflection of God’s own heart when sinners (like the ones drawing near to hear Jesus here) enter God’s Kingdom. The “just so” statements in verses 7 and 10 help us tune-in to Jesus’ purposes here. These are stories about God’s heart. But in the third story (about the lost son), Jesus goes further. Rather than finishing the third story just like the other two, right when the audience would expect the story to be ending, Jesus introduces a new tension (v. 25): between the father and the older son (the old brother to the lost son). Jesus highlights the older brother’s response to his father’s celebratory heart. The older brother is indignant. He had served him faithfully for many years… where was his party? “This isn’t fair,” the older brother protests. Rather than celebrating his father’s generosity, he has a scarcity mentality. He becomes angry (v. 28), critical (v. 30), and self-righteous (v. 29). Remember Jesus’ audience here. He is ultimately responding to the grumblings of the Pharisees. And in this older brother, we have a character who responds to his younger brother’s return home with that same Pharisaic grumbling. Jesus wants us to identify this older brother with the Pharisees. Or better yet, Jesus is holding up a mirror to the Pharisees. Jesus wants these Pharisees to see themselves in this older brother. Maybe it isn’t too late for them to repent and come home! Jesus just flipped the script. Now rather than judging others, the Pharisees must look at their own lives. They’ve been blindsided – and us too. I’m forced to ask about the state of my heart: Does it reflect God’s celebratory heart? Does it rejoice in God’s extravagant grace in my life and in the lives of others? Or do I share the older brother’s scarcity mentality? Do I grumble like these Pharisees when I see God offering forgiveness so freely? Is God’s radical grace a stumbling block – and offense – to me? Rather than grumbling or growing hard-hearted, let’s always celebrate God’s radical, extravagant grace – even when it shows up in the most unexpected of places. I recently gave a talk on Luke 15 at LifePoint. You can stream the message below, or download it here!

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