Much to the chagrin of the Jewish leaders of His day, Jesus often acted against religious cultural norms. He pushed back on many rituals and refused to bend to the pressure of the Pharisees seeking to force their cumbersome rules upon others. Without doubt, the most infuriating thing that Jesus did in their eyes was His association with sinners.
Pharisees believed a person would actually contaminate themselves by simply being in proximity of people who were judged to be, in their eyes… “sinners”. Jesus constantly spent time in the company of sinners. It is ironic that the only person who ever lived and never sinned spent time with those who were judged to be the worst of society, while self-righteous and pompous sinners like the Pharisees refused to even be seen with them.
In Luke 15 Jesus was once again at it… spending time with sinners… even eating meals with them! So they confronted Jesus and complained about his lack of tact and what they deemed was a poor example to good, pious Jews. So Jesus told them a story.
He said there was once a shepherd who had 100 sheep and he discovered that he had lost one. So he left the 99 and sought the missing sheep. Then he said, “And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” Luke 15:5-7 NLT
What a beautiful picture… God and Heaven experiencing great joy over the salvation of a sinner who was lost but now is found. When the angel appeared to those wide-eyed shepherds that first Christmas night he proclaimed… “Don’t be afraid!” He said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem…” Luke 2:10 NLT Joy to all the people because a Savior had been provided and sins would be forgiven, and joy in Heaven because people would be saved by the Savior and Lord who had been sent.
Hebrews 12:2b says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Yes, the birth of the King of Kings has brought great joy to those who know Him… but allow me to remind you today that you have brought great joy to the King… because the joy that was set before Him… was you.