Criticizing Christ


Jesus was often criticized (by the self-righteous, self-seeking religious crowd) for eating with people who were known as notorious sinners. In once instance, Jesus responded to the criticism with a parable (i.e., a symbolic story that makes a powerful spiritual point). It is called the parable of the lost sheep. It is found in Luke 15:3–7:

"So he told them this parable: [4] "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

Notice what the man does for his lost sheep. He goes after it. He finds it. He lays it on his shoulders. He rejoices. He invites other to rejoice with him. The so-called religious crowd did not rejoice with Jesus for seeking, finding, and caring for lost sheep. Rather, they criticized him. 

They should have been happy. They should have praised Jesus. They did not. Because of their self-righteousness, they looked down on sinners (as if they themselves were not sinners!) and therefore looked down on Jesus for eating with sinners. 

The self-righteous always look down on others. When you exalt yourself above others, the only thing you can do is look down on them. So, where Jesus is shown to be merciful, loving, kind, and gracious toward undeserving sinners, he will always be criticized by the unmerciful, unloving, unkind, and ungracious religious hypocrite.

Now notice the spiritual point as it pertains to the lost and found sheep. What is the meaning? Who is the sheep that Jesus goes after, finds, lays on his shoulders, rejoices over, and invites others to rejoice over? The interpretation is given in verse 7. It is the "sinner who repents." Repenting means turning. It means changing direction, changing the mind, changing the heart. A ship sailing east can repent and sail west. A man living for himself can repent and live for God. We are all sinners. The question is, will we be unrepentant sinners or repentant sinners that believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord?

Repentance is turning from not believing in Jesus' sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins to believing in Jesus' sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins. 

Repentance is turning from not believing His glorious resurrection to believing it. 

Repentance is turning from not trusting Jesus for the gift of eternal life to trusting Him. 

The mind is changed by God's grace. The heart is changed by God's Spirit. All this "changing" and "turning" and "repenting" to sail in a new direction is based on the good news of Christ's death and resurrection the way a skyscraper is based on a massive foundation. 

The Word of the gospel gives life to dead sinners like me. Jesus is the good shepherd; His Word of promise in the gospel is His voice by which He calls and draws us into His flock.

Hear the voice of Jesus today, as He said in Mark 1:15, "Repent and believe the good news." Salvation is one step away from you: Turning to Jesus in faith. Be forgiven. Be reconciled to God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Know peace, joy, and contentment that none can take away. Come to know Jesus by faith, and you will have all you ever need.

Finally, let us never criticize Jesus for loving sinners, making them His own, and caring for them. Rather, let us rejoice that He found us, rejoice that He finds others, and rejoice that He will continue to do so throughout history.