The Come Follow Me lesson for this week invites us to consider who might be a “lost sheep” in our own lives. Just as the shepherd in the parable searched for his lost sheep, we too can seek out those who may feel lost or forgotten. Whether it is a friend struggling with a personal challenge, a family member who has drifted away from the faith, or a neighbor in need of support, we can follow the example of Christ and extend a hand of love and compassion. As we reach out to those who are lost, we may find that we ourselves are also found and brought closer to the Savior.
Come, Follow Me Insights
How can I apply the three parables of “The Lost and Found” in my life?
“It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” – John 11:48–50
John Hilton III
Who in my life may be a “lost sheep”, desiring to come back to the fold, but needing my personal support and love to do so?
Messages of Christ
“In the case of Lazarus, there was no question as to the magnitude of Jesus’ power.”
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come Follow Me Insights.
This week, Luke 12-17 and John 11.
So for this first episode we’re actually going to speed run.
We’re going to do an end around here and just go into Luke chapter 15 because there are three amazing parable parables in this one chapter and everything that’s in Luke 1213 and 14 is covered in other sections of the gospels. And so we’re going to just jump right to the good stuff in Luke 15, these three parables of the lost and found. And I say that because often when we refer to them, we just stop at the parables of the lost. But I love the fact that in all three cases that which was lost is found. So I love calling him the three parables of the lost and found. The second episode will cover Luke chapter 17 and John chapter eleven because those two chapters go so beautifully together.
What’s fascinating the way Jesus shared these stories in quick succession. He begins with 101 thing gets lost and found. Then he moves all the way down to ten and one of those items gets lost and then found. And the last story is just two and one gets lost and found. It’s almost as if Jesus is trying to point out that it doesn’t matter the number. He focuses on the one. And significantly the very last story is about humans.
That’s fascinating. That the first one’s about sheep and then coins and then two sons. So we’ll get to that before we dive in to parable number one. Remember we’ve mentioned it before, but now I want to read you the exact quote. This comes from the Joseph Smith papers. And if you look at his history, on January 29, 1843, so he’s about a year and a half away from his martyrdom. He’s in Navu and he’s giving this talk, this speech about some parables. Listen to this. What is the rule of interpretation? Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads. I have a key by which I understand the scriptures I inquire. What was the question which drew out the answer or caused Jesus to utter the parable? So he’s saying stop trying to get fancy in your interpretation. Just look at the setting. And unfortunately in some of the parables we don’t always get the precursor, the setting. Sometimes it just launches into a parable. But in this case with these three parables, we do get the setting. So before we even talk about one of the sheep, out of the fold of 100 getting lost, let’s look at the setting.
Verse one then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners. For to hear him, you can picture this setting. Jesus surrounded by publicans and sinners.
Publicans are the tax collectors. Tax collectors, everyone’s favorite profession.
They hate these guys. The Jewish leadership hates them. Not just because they’re paying tribute to them, but because they see it as a form of supporting idol worship, ultimately they feel like this is a real conflict for them, because they feel like these in many cases, these Jewish publicans. Now, not all publicans were Jewish, but the ones we’re talking about here clearly seem to be of the house of Israel, who have now sold out to the Romans, and they’re collecting money from the Jews in order to send it to Rome and support idol worship, building of temples and worship of false gods.
Building what? Tyler said, we know the Jewish temple. This is a seat and place of their power of worship. The Jews already pay taxes to support the temple, the Jewish temple. Why would you go support pagan efforts? The fact that Jesus is hanging out with these people causes concern among some of the Jewish leaders.
So look at verse two. The Pharisees and scribes murmured, can you see the instantaneous judgment going on? Pharisees and scribes come into this setting. They see Jesus sitting with publicans and sinners, and instantly there’s a judgment being made. We are holier than they are. We are more righteous than they are. We are clean as far as ritual purity is concerned, as far as keeping the law of Moses, and they’re clearly not. And Jesus is hanging out with them. So look at the wording here. He was not just receiving sinners, but he also edith with them. That’s what they’re saying. He has table fellowship with known sinners and publicans. He either is blind or is completely oblivious to the fact that these people are who they really are. So notice what happens next, verse three, and he spake this parable unto them, saying, and now we launch into the first parable. Instead of Jesus looking at them saying, you think you’re so righteous, instead of just saying it directly to them, he says, I have a story for you. Then he begins, what man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the 99 in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it.
And in the footnote for a Joseph translation says, and go into the wilderness after that which is lost until he find it. Now, at first pass, I have to be honest with you with this particular parable. When I was in seminary as a young man, a middle teenager, age 16, I remember covering this story in class, and it bothered me because I thought, this doesn’t sound like a very good shepherd. If I have a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off into the wilderness, I would never leave 99 to go and find the one, for fear that by the time I found the one and returned, I’d now have only 38 sheep, because all the others, most of the others had wandered away. And I remember my seminary teacher said, no, Tyler, he would have left the 99 in charge of some hirings or some other shepherds to take care of them, he wouldn’t have just left them. And I thought to myself, that’s still not very satisfying for me, because it seems to me like a good shepherd would stick with the bulk of his flock to protect them and send one of those hiredlings or one of those under shepherds to go out into the wilderness and find the lost sheep.
That just seemed really logical in my little 16 year old brain, my way of thinking.
Without your shepherding experience.
Yes, because I was so experienced with pastoral care here as far as sheep are concerned. And then right before leaving into the mission field a couple of years later, I was reading the book the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fieldingsmith, and I read something in there that made my jaw drop regarding this particular parable. And since then, if we now go to the Joseph Smith Papers version, which takes us back to the original rather than an edited version of his words, once again, January 29, 1843, that same talk. Notice what he says here. The hundred sheep represent 100 Sadducees and Pharisees, as though Jesus had said, if you Sadducees and Pharisees are in the sheepfold, I have no mission for you. I am sent to look up sheep that are lost. And when I have found them, I will back them up and make joy in heaven. This represents hunting after a few individuals or one poor publican, which the Pharisees and Sadducees despised. Did you catch that? The 99 are the people who are saying to to each other, we’re so good, we’re not lost. Jesus is spending all this time with these dirty people and these sinners, and Jesus saying, Yep, that’s who I came to save.
Because they know they’re lost these sheep here with me at table. They know that they’re in the wilderness and that they need a good shepherd to come and find them and bring them back to the fold. And for the first time in my life, I was reading this thinking, that makes sense.
I love how this goes on. And he says, and when he has found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Now, let’s think about this. Sheep have four legs, and they can use all of them to follow the shepherd, but the shepherd is so excited to bring that sheep back into the fold. He Harris. That sheep. Have you ever been a moment in your life where you have felt Jesus carry you through some challenge and you were able to get through that and felt a deeper sense of his love and joy? Imagine his joy and rejoicing at being able to carry you. What he has always wanted to do is to carry us along where necessary. It’s one of my favorite purses.
I love that because so many of us, we love to be the fixer we love to be the rescuer. We love to be the one out on those missions to lift up people and find them and bring them home. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there are plenty of times when you’ve been out there and maybe it’s not because of sin. Maybe you’ve been out in the wilderness feeling all alone, vulnerable, knowing the sun’s going to set and the predators are going to be out looking for you. And you feel that loving support that comes in a way that only heaven can manifest that mercy and that grace where the Savior picks you up and says, I’m going to carry you for a season here. I’m going to take you back into my fold. And it could be from the death of a loved one. It could be as you come home from a diagnosis being delivered to you at the hospital for you or a loved one, and you feel like you have no idea what’s going to happen, and he finds a way to carry you in his bosom. It could be with a loved one who is going through struggles that might be spiritual or mental or emotional or in prison or the list goes on and on and on, where we realize we’re lost and we need help.
I love that good shepherd feeling of allowing us to be found and to be carried by the Lord instead of running further away from Him. He’s the only one who can ultimately offer that kind of relief. And then what a privilege it is to be on the giving end of that when you can to be a good shepherd to help people fill up the Savior’s love for them. So notice in verse seven, as he comes home, he says, I say unto you, likewise, joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over 99 just persons which need no repentance. I could be wrong, but I think Jesus is speaking in a little bit of hyperbole here, because the reality is there is no such thing as 99 just persons which need no repentance. There’s only 99 people who think they don’t need repentance. Which now brings us to the second of our parables. And this one is totally different, but it’s exactly the same. Why? Because in this case, it’s a woman. Now, she has ten pieces of silver, and if she lose one piece, does she not light a candle and sweep the house and seek diligently till she find it?
And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together saying, rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. A piece of silver is a big deal to this woman, and she lost 10%. She found it particularly to a woman.
Most women anciently in the ancient Israelite world did not have economic freedom. They were typically economically connected to a father, a husband or a son. And for her to have any form of her own wealth and to lose 10% of it is a really big deal. Nobody wants to lose 10%, but the fact that Jesus uses a female character here makes the story that much more poignant that the listeners are going to understand, like, this is a big deal for this woman.
Yeah. So just pause for a minute and let’s look at this. You have 100 sheep. You have ten coins. How does a sheep get lost? Do you think? That sheep woke up that morning and said, I’ve had it with the flock, I’ve had it with the shepherd, and I’m just going to kind of work my way to the edge of the fold and I’m going to keep an eye on him, and when he’s distracted, I’m making a bolt for the hills. I’m out of here, I’m done with this. I guess that’s possible, but more likely scenario would be that the sheep was just eating and the sheep is following its nose, eating, eating, eating, and it just keeps eating and it keeps going. So this sheep seems to wander off. It’s wandered away from the fold and now it realizes that it’s lost and it has no idea how to get back to the fold. And the more it tries to get back to the fold, chances are it’s just going to get more lost. How does a coin get lost? Does the coin wander away? Does the coin wake up in the morning and say, I’ve had it in this pocket or this purse.
I’m going to figure a way to get out of this person roll under a couch. A coin doesn’t do anything to get itself lost. A coin gets lost out of somebody else’s neglect or misplacement or mistreatment. So something happened that wasn’t the coin’s fault, and it enos up being lost, we could say, out of neglect. So it doesn’t matter whether you wander off or whether you’re neglected by somebody else. The reality is you both end up in the same condition. You’re lost and you need somebody to come and find you. The coin can’t find itself and the sheep can’t return to the fold by itself. They both need somebody to come and help them. Which now leads us to parable number three, which if you look at just the sheer verses and the column space from Luke’s perspective here, you get seven verses for the first parable and then you get 8910, three verses for the second parable, and then we get eleven through 32 for the third parable. Totally dominates by two times more than the other two parables combined. It might tell us that there’s more involved when we’re talking about sons here.
Two sons, one father. And the story is about to unfold here. So there’s a lot happening here. Let’s set the stage in verse eleven. And he said, a certain man had two sons. Now we have to push pause. We have to take a time out here and say, what is Jesus doing? He’s already told two stories to these Pharisees and scribes back in verse one and two, who are kind of inwardly mocking him for spending time with publicans and sinners. He’s already proved a point, but he’s going to tell it a third way from a different angle that is really powerful. And so he really cuts to the heart here. A certain man had two sons. This is going to hit a little closer to home. It’s easier for them to feel more removed from a shepherd with 100 sheep, because none of these Pharisees are going to be shepherds. That’s a lowly servant. And none of these Pharisees or scribes is going to really directly relate to a woman who loses one piece of silver out of ten. Most of them are probably fairly rich, and they’re like, It’s not a big deal. But now when you start talking about a father with two sons, most of them will probably be able to directly relate to this story in a more.
Personal way, either as fathers or as sons. And Jesus goes on and says, and the younger of the two sons said to his father, father, give me the portion of goods that follow to me. And the father divided unto the two sons his living.
So basically, this boy, the younger son, went up to dad and in a first century Jewish context, said to his dad, dad, you’re dead to me. I’d rather have you dead because I just want my inheritance. You don’t usually get inheritance until your parents have passed on, and then that inheritance is divided up. But this kid is saying, I want it. Now, this is significant because his dad’s fairly rich, we find out in this story. And so he divided up his inheritance. The dad actually did it. He gave this young son, we would assume, roughly one third of everything that he owns. And some are like, Wait, he has two kids, so he should have given half. Keep in mind, under a law of Moses context, the older son gets a double portion, and then remaining sons get a single portion. So if there are only two sons, that means you divide it into three. The older son gets a double portion. So this is a son who only gets one third, but that’s a lot from his dad. And what does he do? Verse 13 says not many days after the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country, which to the Pharisees and scribes listening would have implied they would have heard, oh, he went into Gentile.
Lands. Because the Jewish lands, the house of Israel among your family and kindred lands where it’s safe, clean, ritually, pure kinds of places. None of them are far countries. So if this kid went to a far country, that means he’s now among the Gentiles, and there he wasted his substance with riotous living. So did you catch this? He’s taking that which he had not earned, hadn’t worked for. He was born into this, and he took it prematurely, went into this far country, and he wasted it with riotous living among the gentiles. And I have to be honest, again, when I was back in seminary with this parable, it kind of drove me crazy because I thought, what is wrong with this dad? Why did he first give that money? And secondly, why didn’t he follow the kid into this far country and spy him out and go and rescue him when he had only spent the first few days worth of the wealth on riotous living and come to him and say, oh, my son, I found you. Let’s rejoice like the good shepherd. Go find your son and bring him home. Carry him if you need to, bring him home.
There’s a problem. And the problem is, how did this boy get lost? Did he wander? Was he neglected? Or was there something else going on? Did he willingly and knowingly choose to rebel? He made a conscientious set of decisions that put him on this path to take him away from his father and squander this. It was a known rebellion. It wasn’t wandering and it wasn’t neglect. And if it’s a known rebellion, what happens if dad shows up a few days into his rightest living? Is the kid going to say, oh, good, dad, you found me. I’m so glad, thank you for coming to save me. I could be wrong, but I think the young lad would have been extremely angry and embarrassed and gotten up in a huff and gone into an even further country apart and tried to cover his tracks better so that his dad couldn’t track him down because he’s making a free will choice here to do this.
So if you look at these three parables, we talked about how sheep may have wander off. It’s also possible the sheep and the coin didn’t know they were lost. And when somebody’s in rebellion, they also may not know that they’re lost. And in all these cases, god goes out and finds those who are lost, whether they know it or not. In this case, we see something interesting. The son has to learn that he is lost. It’s interesting that the father allows the son full agency to fully experience the consequences of life. And didn’t we fight a big battle in heaven over this to get agency?
As a father, it’d be really difficult for me to watch a child make those decisions. In fact, I’ve been in life circumstances where people close to me made decisions that were very problematic for them, that impacted them and other people and me. And guess what I wanted to do? I wanted to stop them. I wanted to use my agency to compromise their agency. And I learned a very difficult but very powerful lesson that I could love and invite. I could love them and invite them to do what was right. That’s all my agency could do. And I think some of that might be going on here where the father still loves and we’ll see some invitation. But before we get to that point, the rebellious son has to come to his senses.
So let’s get him there, right? Verse 14. When he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in the land, and he began to be in want understatement brothers and sisters. Verse 14 is the ultimate understatement in the law of the harvest context of you reap what you sow. You cannot plant seeds of wickedness and hope to produce and enjoy fruits of righteousness and wickedness. Never ever was happiness. It always leads to a person feeling empty in want hollow. And that process might take days, it might take weeks, it might take months or years or decades, and it might even take a lifetime. But eventually people in this category realize, oh, I’m in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. Implication being? It’s a gentile. He’s now going to go work for a Gentile, a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. Now, if you’re one of the Pharisees and scribes standing there as Jesus is telling this story, you have probably a visual reaction. You’re going to revolt at this part of the story.
You’re with Gentiles and with pigs, which are against the law of Moses, and you’re feeding them. I mean, it cannot get worse than this. It’s almost as if the son has become a swine himself.
Or could it get worse? Has he reached the bottom of barrel yet? Look at verse 16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him. Oh, my goodness. If you’ve never watched pigs eat slop out of a trough before, it’s revolting. It’s nauseating. And here’s this lad, he’s feeding the swine, and he’s looking at the food they’re eating, wishing he could eat it with them. But they won’t let him eat it because it’s for the pigs, it’s not for him. That should tell us something about the condition of this lad. He’s working basically as a servant for these people, probably not making very much money. They aren’t even feeding him appropriately to the point where he’s wanting to eat pig slop, which tells you he’s probably not very healthy. Now, if you could make in your mind’s eye, if you could just see a list of potential attributes of this boy right now, how would you describe him? What are some of the words you’d put on a list in your mind? What does he look like? What does he smell like?
What would he feel like? This kid is not in a good place. And now watch what happens verse 17. And when he came to himself did you catch that? Taylor introduced this earlier. You can’t go and pull a rebel out and say you will come back home because I found you. They have to work through some processes on their own, it seems. He came to himself and his conclude what is his conclusion? You can picture him out there in this pig trough and he kind of wakes up. He comes to himself, says, Wait a minute. I’m sitting here and how many of my hired servants of my father have bread enough and despair, and I perish with hunger. And now this beautiful turning point. Verse 18. I will arise and go to my father and I will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and I am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants. So that’s his plan. He’s like, I’m going to go home and I’m going to beg dad, who I can no longer really call dad because of what I’ve done.
I’m going to beg him to be one of his hired servants instead. At least I’ll have a roof over my head and bread to eat. And so now he begins this long journey home. Verse 20. And he arose and came to his father. You remember in your mind how you pictured what that young man looked like out with those pigs? He was probably pretty skinny, probably pretty emaciated, actually. Not healthy. Smelled terrible. And now he’s come home on a very long journey with no means, no wealth to pay for, nice lodging and nice ointments for his body and nice food for his belly and nice drink. By the time he gets home from a long journey. Whatever you pictured him like in the pig’s sty, he’s going to be way worse by the time he gets back home. And then this next part is amazing. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. You have some options here. Jesus doesn’t tell you it’s a parable. It’s a story to teach a principle. One of the options is dad came out of his house that morning and was walking out to the barn.
And he glances down the long lane out to the main road and he sees a character coming from a long way off and he says, who that kid looks like he’s walking like my son. It is my son. And he just happened to see him right at that moment. That’s an option. But I think a far more likely scenario is that dad has been doing what a father of a rebellious son can do, which is to pray and to hold on to hope and to faith that someday my boy is going to come home. I love him, and someday he’s going to return to me which means the father is probably looking down that road, watching that road, that empty road, for days, weeks, months, maybe years or decades, waiting for the first sign that his boy has decided to come home. At which point the dad runs down the lane towards the boy. Can you picture that little moment? Can you picture that, son seeing dad running towards him and he’s got his speech all prepared. Dad, I’ve totally messed up. I’m not worthy to be called your son anymore. I just want to be one of your servants.
But he doesn’t get a chance to deliver his his long prepared speech because David comes up and he grabs that boy. Now, I don’t know about you, but our human tendency might be to come a little closer and see him and think, oh, you’re looking rough, very unkempt, very dirty, and you don’t smell very good, and you don’t look very healthy. I’m not sure if you have diseases. Let’s go home and get you cleaned up, and then I’m going to give you a hug. I love the father in this parable because he doesn’t seem to smell the stench. He doesn’t seem to be focusing on the dirt and the grime and the pig slop. He’s not looking at the emaciated state of this boy who has made so many poor decisions. He’s looking beneath all of that and underneath all of that soil and that stain, he sees his son, and he loves that boy, and he grabs that boy and pulls him into an abras. And he doesn’t just hug him, he.
Kisses him with all that slime and smelliness. He’s not even worried. The father is not even worried, not worried about germs, not worried about being infected. His son’s home. He’s willing to give that kiss of welcome.
Now, at that point, the boy is feeling a little overwhelmed, and now he gives his speech. The son said unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and in my sight, and I’m no more worthy to be called thy son. And I love the fact that dad at this point doesn’t say, oh, really? You mean you don’t have all that money I gave you? It’s gone and you squandered. You lived a riotous lifestyle. Well, then, okay, yeah, you’re no longer my son. That doesn’t do that. He calls for his other servants. Come and bring forth the best robe and put it on him. Anytime in the New Testament, when you’re being clothed or things are being put on somebody, there’s an allusion to that Greek word enduo to endow, to put on a robe or a garment, a sacred clothing, a covering. There’s something beautiful about this that in exchange for all this terrible stuff, he’s not turned into a servant. He’s treated with a royal homecoming, with a robe and a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. He’s being clothed and dressed as if he were royalty, as if he.
Were a prince and then bring hither the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and be Mary for this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found, and they began to be merry. You would only throw a feast of that size if you have somebody of considerable honor in your presence. I mean the best calf. Otherwise you might just get him some bread. So this shows the enormous love, the enduring love that the Father had for the Son. And those listening to the story should be able to understand that God the Father has this kind of enduring love for us. And yet there’s a plot twist in here.
In all of Luke 15, there’s one person who’s upset, angry at the return or the finding of that which is lost. And it starts in verse 25. Now, his elder son was in the field, and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard he was a condancing, and he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, thy brother has come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry and would not go in. Therefore came his Father out and entreated him. And then you get this interesting discussion where the Father is trying to help this older son understand. But first the older son says, lo, these many years do I serve thee. Neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. Pause. Take a time out. Which of the two sons am I? Which of the two sons are you? You see how easy it is to read this parable from a safe distance and talk about the young son as if he’s the other? It’s not me, because I’ve not committed any of these serious kinds of sins.
I’ve never had to come home saying I’m not worthy anymore to even be called your son. Can I just be your servant? Can I at least be included with the servant quarters? Most people, when they read this parable, they love to associate with the older son, the group that says, hey, we’re good. We’ve never committed serious sin. Since it’s a parable, you’re free to apply it in whatever way works for you. But I would remind us of Joseph Smith’s key for unlocking meaning in the parables. Remember, he says the hundred sheep represent Sadducees and Pharisees. In this case, the one who says to the Lord, I’ve always done everything you’ve ever asked me to do. I’ve never transgressed at any time thy commandment. That doesn’t sound possible, doesn’t sound like somebody who is anything more than just a self righteous person saying, I’ve been perfect. I’ve never done this. And in that setting, with Jesus eating with publicans and sinners with the Pharisees and scribes judging them, there’s a very clear allusion to which group is which son. And look at this next part, verse 30. As soon as this thy Son was come, which hath devoured thy, living with Harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And the Father says, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. I don’t know what that means exactly in this world back then with Jesus talking to these Pharisees and scribes, they are the recipients of this parable as the publicans and sinners get to overhear it. But using Joseph Smith’s key, I think he might be saying to the Pharisees and scribes, you’ve always been with the law of Moses, you’ve always had access to these Scriptures. Everything that I’ve had is yours, free for the taking. Look at verse 32. It was meat that we should make Mary and be glad for this. Thy brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost. And now can you picture him looking at the crowd around the table with him, and is found? Brothers and sisters, as we come to the close of this episode with Luke 15, in these three parables of the lost and the found, the reality is there are times in everybody’s life when we’re like the sheep because we’ve wandered carelessly. There are times when we get lost out of neglect. There are times when it’s really not your fault, but you are lost and you need help.
And there are times when we, like this young lad out in the gentile lands feeding swine, have to come to ourselves and make a realization that, you know what? I knew better and I still chose to squander this inheritance from heaven, and I need to arise and go to my Father. So as we dive into this miracle in chapter 17, let’s start in verse eleven. And it came to pass as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Just geographically speaking, if you look at the lay of the land here, here’s Jerusalem, the capital city, here’s Capernum, and all of these villages that are largely Jewish up in the Galilee, the tradition, the long standing tradition is that they would have taken the longer route down into the Jordan River Valley to Jericho and then up the steep mountain up to Jerusalem, which takes a lot longer. Six, seven, eight days, depending on the weather and the traveling conditions. And there are a couple of times where you see this direct route through Samaria that Jesus is taking. He David, it back in John chapter four. He’s now doing it here in Luke chapter eleven.
The idea being Jesus isn’t afraid of those cultural norms, if they existed widespread, and nobody ever wanted to come this route because Jesus is doing it a few times. And in this case, as we’re coming through Samaria, it says in verse twelve, as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off. They’re being good citizens, because lepers aren’t supposed to come into the villages. They’re supposed to stay away, stay apart. So verse 13 and they lifted up their voices and said, jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, go show yourselves unto the priests. Pause right there. If you’re one of the ten lepers and you’ve just shouted to him, you recognize who it is. Because Jesus has been through Samaria before. He’s performed miracles. We know that the name Jesus means something to these people in this community. And so they’ve asked him to be healed. And he says, go show yourself to the priest. That could be a little problematic because we’re still leprous. Look at the next line. It says, as they went, they were cleansed.
So it wasn’t a you’re healed, now go see the priest. It was, they had to turn and take steps of faith to head to the priest when everything in their culture and society said, don’t you dare go near the priest.
Right. Because these are Samaritans. They have their own religion. It’s very similar to the Judaism, but they have their own way of doing things. And based on what we can tell, jesus is encouraging them to go see the Jewish priests, not the Samaritan priest. Now, we’re not exactly sure about that, but if it’s the Jewish priest, it’s even more of an act of faith for them to have to travel who knows how long, a couple of days down to the Jewish temple, or if there’s a Jewish priest that they can find somewhere nearby. This is a serious act of faith that God Jesus is asking them, I want you to act before you see the miracle.
So it says, and one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice, glorified God, I love this. There were ten who were cleansed. If you look at that word at the bottom of verse 1410, lepers walked away. This day cleansed. They’re no longer ritually unclean. And one of them seems to experience more than just the cleansing. He’s now glorifying god. And he fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. Luke is reminding you yet again, oh, in case if you forgot from verse eleven, this guy’s a Samaritan, but now he’s okay to come up to Jesus and his apostles and those traveling with them because he’s cleansed. But he’s still a Samaritan, he’s still an outsider as far as the Jews are concerned. And Jesus’s response in verse 17 is, were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God. Save this stranger. And he said unto him, arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole. Notice the difference between verse 14 and verse 1910. Lepers were cleansed, but one leper was made whole, complete.
The miracle is now complete. And there are nine of them who for whatever reason, and we can’t blame them, we’re not here pointing fingers of scorn at the nine. We’re here to celebrate with the one who came back and recognized, wow, what a privilege. I have a new life now, and he comes back and glorifies God. To me, this is a powerful example of never moving forward too far without acknowledging what was done. You’ll notice human tendency, we all experience this to one degree or another, where you’re in a moment of need and you desperately call out for help. And often when that help comes, we’re like, who good, I got the help I needed and we move on. I love this guy because he reminds me that I should probably put just as much energy into my gratitude and meekness and humility in going back to glorify God for these blessings that I received as I did when I was pleading for the blessing to be given. It’s just a beautiful concept that I learned from this unnamed Samaritan Leper who was made whole.
I learned this from my wife. She’s dealt with quite a fair share of medical issues. I sometimes joke that she’s single handedly keeping the medical industry alive with all her payments, but she was dealing with some serious medical issues some time ago, and we did a lot of prayer and fasting and working with doctors, but prayer and fasting that God would oliver her and heal her body, and he did. What’s interesting is that my wife came to me and said, fast Sunday is coming up. We’ve been doing these fast for my health. I think we should fast in gratitude. Kind of interesting, like, wait, why would I give up food when I can get something from God? Shouldn’t we be asking God for things? And it was a very powerful lesson my wife taught me about that we can pray and fast, not only to receive, but also to give back and to give thanks to God.
What an amazing difference that would make for everybody. President Russell M. Nielsen back when COVID was going on, you’ll remember some of you when he did a special little broadcast, a video and sent it out to the world saying, I have something that will make a difference. And everybody was waiting, oh, what is it going to be? And his answer was, express more gratitude, find more ways to thank the Lord, count your many blessings, be more thankful, be more grateful. And what a difference that makes when we return to God with absolute gratitude and meekness. Let’s shift over to John, chapter eleven. John, chapter eleven is one of these sweet moments in the Savior’s ministry as we get closer to the end of his life. So just for context of time, we’re in chapter eleven, and if you turn the page over to chapter twelve, you’ll notice that’s where John’s gospel gives the triumphal entry and you get the anointing. This is right towards the end of his life. And Jesus is up in Galilee and it says in verse one a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
So once again it’s down in Judea, just up and over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem onto the eastern slope that now heads down towards Jericho, down towards the Jordan River valley. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So in verse three it says therefore his sister sent unto him, saying, lord, behold he whom thou lovest. The six. So they sent word to him, if you look back in chapter ten, verse 40, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized, and there he abode. So he’s on the other side of the river, down that steep climb from Bethany, down past Jericho to the Jordan River and to the other side he’s in Jordan, and they’re abode. So in John’s context it looks like that’s where Jesus is staying.
And it’s only probably if you’re walking fast. It’s a one day journey into Bethany.
A very heavy journey.
So the sister sending word Lazarus is sick. If Jesus is really motivated to help Lazarus, he could be there immediately.
But he waits. Verse six, when he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. And then after that saith he to his disciples, let us go into Judea again. So we’re going to leave Jordan and go into Judea again. His disciples saying to him, master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee. And goest thou thither again? And so as part of Jesus’s answer here towards the end in verse eleven, he says our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. At which point Peter and the other apostles are looking at him saying, wait a minute. No, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. In other words, in our day and age if somebody’s sick, the best thing for them is to sleep, because rest can rejuvenate. Don’t wake him up, that’ll make him worse.
But even after all this time, the disciples with Jesus take everything totally literally. He has to tell them how be it Jesus spake of his death? But they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest and sleep. So verse 14 then Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. But then he says verse 15 I am glad for your sakes that I was not there to the intent that ye may believe. Nevertheless, let us go unto him.
So now we’re going to go. Keep in mind he got word, he’s waited two days. Now they’re going to go. He’s delayed long enough that this death has really become a reality. For everybody in this Jewish first century context, and we’ll talk about that when we get to it. Look at verse 16 then said Thomas, which is called Didymus. The word didymus just it’s the Greek word for twin. So Thomas, one of his twelve apostles, seems to be a twin. So they’re walking and Thomas the twin says unto his fellow disciples, let us go up that we may die with him. And then Joseph Smith adds, for they feared lest the Jews should take Jesus and put him to death, for as yet they did not understand the power of God. Most of you, when you think about Thomas the apostle, most of us inherently jump to his experience post resurrection. When the ten apostles taking Judas out of the mix and Thomas was gone, when Jesus appeared to them post resurrection, they’ve all borne testimony to him and he says, I won’t believe unless I can touch the wounds myself and see for myself.
And then I’ll know, and then I’ll believe. And because of that, people today put this terrible label on him of doubting Thomas. I don’t know about you, but if I were him over on the other side of the veil, I wouldn’t love being referred to as the doubter or doubting Thomas, or people come up to you in the spirit, hey, you’re doubting Thomas, so good to meet you. I wouldn’t like being defined by that kind of a moment in life. So rather than that, what if instead we called him let us go, let us also go, that we may die with Him thomas, let’s define Him by that moment.
Like Peter, he’s actually energetically zealous to support the Lord. We look at Peter who seems to be like so energetic around supporting Jesus, we almost never think about Thomas the same way. And yet this phrase we hear from Thomas, you could easily put on the lips of Peter and everyone say that absolutely sounds like the character of Peter, and yet we have Thomas as well. So Jesus actually chose his disciples well. He chose people who were energetically disposed to support his cause. And jumping ahead some chapters, it isn’t wrong for Thomas wanting his own witness, but God ultimately does ask all of us to gain our own personal witness.
So then we jump up to the rest of the story here in Bethany, which is a major climb out of the Jordan River Valley. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Joseph changes this to say, when he came to Bethany, to Martha’s house, lazarus had already been in the grave four days. So it’s almost as if Joseph is changing this verse to say, jesus purposefully waited so that Lazarus could be in the grave four days. He doesn’t arrive and find out, oh, what, he’s been in the grave for four days. Which is how it sounds in verse 17 of the King james version. Now, verse 19 says and many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. Can I just pause here and ask a simple question? Knowing what you know about Mary and Martha from Luke, Chapter ten, from that experience that we had in Martha’s house with her serving and Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, can you just anticipate or guess which of the two would be the most likely to recognize that Jesus had come into the village and was somewhere in the neighborhood?
Mary or Martha? It seems that the one who’s up and about and doing and serving and taking care of people. You can picture this house full of Jews who have come to mourn with them. And Martha’s personality type, you can picture her actually serving them and taking care of them. And she’s doing what she does very well. And, oh, how we love her for that. And she’s the first one to recognize that Jesus is in the neighborhood. Notice it says then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him. But Mary sat still in the house. This is fitting, what we saw back in Luke chapter ten. Now watch this interchange out with Jesus. Martha comes to him in verse 21 and she says, lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. That is a beautiful expression of faith and testimony. Jesus, we sent you word and if you had come, we know our brother would still be alive. But I know that even now whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. And Jesus saith unto her thy brother shall rise again. So in verse 24, Martha said unto him I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
There’s this beautiful expression of faith in Christ and his power of the resurrection. But then Jesus gives this beautiful teaching. In verse 25, Jesus said unto her I am the resurrection and the life. Did you catch what just happened? She’s referring to the resurrection at the last day as an event way down the road, down the quarter of time. And Jesus is saying, time out, Martha. Stop. Hold on a minute. I am the resurrection and the life. Don’t look for this event down the road. It will happen. Look to me and live. I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And then notice verse 27. She saith unto him yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God which should come into the world. I love that verse because to me that is this beautiful corollary to Peter’s testimony in Caesarea Philippi thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And here you get Martin saying a very similar thing. Thou art the Christ, the Son of God which should come into the world powerful testimony. And when she had so said, she went her way and called Mary, her sister secretly saying the Master has come and calleth for thee.
At which point can you picture mary gets up off of the couch or whatever she’s doing there. What? And she comes out. She comes to Jesus. It says verse 30 now, Jesus was not yet come into the town but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then, which were with her in the house and comforted her when they saw Mary that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her saying she goeth unto the grave to weep there. They’ve drawn their conclusion. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was and she saw him, she fell down at his feet saying unto him lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Did you notice this contrast and similarity between these sisters? When Martha came out, she came to Jesus. There’s no mention of her falling to the ground in front of Jesus. But when Mary, it says, she came out, she fell down at his feet. Now look at the similarity. Her words were Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Look back at verse 21. Martha’s words were Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Their testimony is exactly the same but it’s being shared and manifested not just with words but with other personality traits and characteristics. Martha is standing there, it seems, wanting to have a conversation with Jesus. She wants to talk through this. Mary, on the other hand, comes out and falls to the ground at his feet and she says the exact same words. And then notice verse 33 when Jesus therefore saw her weeping and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
This is an interesting underlying Greek word. The word is to be moved with. It can be translated in a variety of ways. And I want to be careful because we don’t want to say that Jesus is angry. But one of those is to be moved with anger or to admonish sternly. Now, that’s how it’s often used. But it can also mean to be just deeply emotionally impacted to the point not losing control of just being so deeply impacted by emotion. And this is a deeply emotional experience. In fact, if you want, you can go through this chapter and circle the times where the word love shows up. These are some of Jesus’s best friends and he sees their suffering and it impacts him deeply.
Can we pause here and just mention the fact that Jesus doesn’t look down at Mary weeping at his feet on the ground having said the exact same words as Martha to begin the conversation? Then she breaks into tears. He doesn’t say to her, mary, get up. Be more like Martha. He doesn’t do that and he didn’t say to Martha, martha, you should be falling to the ground and crying right now. You should be expressing more emotion at the loss of your brother. We shouldn’t be having this conversation. He didn’t do that because Martha needed to talk it through and Mary needs to weep it through. She needs to cry with him. And watch this next set of two verses. He said, Where have you laid him? And they said unto him, Lord, come and see. And then you get John 1135, which is the shortest verse of all Scripture verses in our canon. It’s two words long jesus wept. Now, if you look at the word wept right there, the question I would ask is, do you think Jesus is weeping because he misses Lazarus, because he’s sad that Lazarus is dead? Jesus knows he’s going, it seems.
Where have you laid him? It implies that he knows he’s going to raise Lazarus from the dead. I could be totally wrong on this, but to me this is the shortest verse in words and one of the longest verses in depth of meaning. It shows us a window into the pure love of Jesus Christ for individuals. Is it possible that those tears in verse 35 could be connected to the tears in verse 33? That when he sees Mary weeping and the Jews that are with her weeping, that it causes this overwhelming feeling of Jesus to weep in compassion and love, almost as if to say, we’re under covenant obligation to mourn with those that mourn? And sometimes people just need you to weep with them, and sometimes people need you to talk with them. I love the fact that Jesus gives to these two sisters exactly what both sisters independently needed from each other. He doesn’t treat them the same. It’s not a one size fits all. He knows his sheep and he gives them exactly what they need. I love that, and it’s inspiring to me to try to slow down a little bit and get to know people a little better before just jumping in and giving them the treatment, whatever the treatment may be.
This is one of my favorite verses. There’s two words that we are quite familiar with in English, compassion and empathy. Turns out the word empathy or pathy comes from the same word as passion, and it means feeling or emotion. And the comb means with, and the M means like in. And so you’re feeling with people, you’re feeling inside what they’re feeling. Let’s just build on this just a bit more. Jesus knows everything. He knows he’s about to Anastasia anesthesiology. He’s going to uplift and raise Lazarus for the dead. He knows that. He doesn’t tell anybody who’s weeping. Would you guys all just calm down and watch this amazing miracle? He instead embraces the moment and has total compassion and empathy. He’s crying with them, even though he knows within two minutes their tears will be gone. And it’s interesting, the two different forms of weeping that are used in the Greek, the weeping of verse 33 is loud groaning, audible weeping. And yet the weeping, the underlying Greek word in verse 35 is a different word and it means to shed quiet tears. So we’re not trying to just say that, well, Jesus can’t ever weep out loud, but you have these really loud, audible groaning weeping from the people in Mary and Jesus who’s just quietly feeling with full compassion and empathy what these people are experiencing.
And yet he also knows that the sun is about to rise on this very dark moment.
One thing I love about Scripture study is when you learn a new layer or a new definition or a new perspective, it doesn’t mean that you’ve arrived, you can keep digging. There’s more to discover over time. So for instance, in this context, verse 35, Jesus wept rather than just saying, oh, it’s just because she and they are weeping loudly, so he is quietly weeping with them. That could be, but there could be a lot of additional reasons why Jesus is weeping. Is it possible that Jesus is looking at this group of people and realizing that his time is very near when he is going to be crucified and laid in a tomb and these his dear friends are going to be gathered at his tomb? Is it possible that some of those tears are shed because of his love for these people and knowing that they’re going to be hurt and they’re going to be confused and they’re going to feel lost at his own death in a matter of days, maybe weeks at the very most from this point, and how he loves them. And as he’s looking at this group, there are a lot of layers to this very short verse jesus wept.
And we’ve just talked through a couple of options and then how do the Jews respond?
They see Jesus and they say verse 36, behold how he loved Him. Now there’s a couple of there’s four different words in Greek for love and there’s two of those that show up in this chapter. Now we only have one word. Just L-O-V-E. Love. So right here it’s Fileta like the word Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And so this is a type of love among friends and brothers, people who are closely knit with one another. But earlier in verse five, for example, you have the word agape. And this is a kind of love that’s more enduring and it’s more relational in the sense that people are committed to one another and they prefer one another. And so both of these are actually used in this chapter and encompasses the kind of love that Jesus invites all of us into.
Well, in the midst of all that love, you still get people questioning his love and his motives in that setting, verse 37, and some of them. Said, could not this man which opened the eyes of the blind have caused that even this man should not have died? Why didn’t he prevent this then? Verse 38 says jesus, therefore again groaning in himself comes to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Keep in mind, Lazarus has been laying in the grave for four days already. There’s a tradition that after three days the spirit has completely left the vicinity of the body. Jesus intentionally waited those two extra days to make it so that nobody could claim, well, Lazarus just went into a state of a coma and he wasn’t really dead four days. The body has begun to break down at that point.
And the underlying Greek word of he has already died is a very intensive, past complete action. It’s as complete of a past event as it can be, meaning there is no coming back from this event. It is fully done. And there’s a Greek word that expresses that, a Greek tense we don’t even have our in our own English. So the Greeks try and makes it very clear this guy is gone.
Verse 39, jesus said, take ye away the stone. At that point, which of the two sisters you think might be the most active in the conversation say, not a good idea, don’t do that. Well, it’s Martha who steps forward and says, lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days. He’s in the grave four days. The word dead is italicized? King James translators added that so her statement he hath been four days implies back to verse 17 that he’s been in the grave four days already. And by the way, they don’t wait to bury people in the first century once they’re dead. You, you try to bury them quickly and complete that within three days so you can seal up the tomb. So Jesus said to her, said, I not unto thee that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And now in verse 42, he continues his prayer. And I knew that thou hearest me always, but because of the people which stand by, I said it that they may believe that thou hast sent me here’s.
John’s theme of sent me, it keeps coming up. And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, lazarus, come forth. Can you imagine that moment in that setting with all the people gathered around? He just called for Lazarus to he’s talking to Lazarus as if he’s alive, but he’s been dead four days. And then this beautiful moment and he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. And Jesus said unto them loose him and let him go, which is also.
A symbol of being loose in the bands of death.
Which, can you picture the incredible symbolism here of Jesus performing this miracle to this huge level? Probably the biggest miracle he’s performed up to this point as far as impossible. Four days in the grave and now he’s coming out. And you can picture Lazarus in these burial clothes with the napkin about his head, this foreshadowing for when Jesus himself would come out of a tomb triumphant over death, but not just raised from the dead into mortality, but raised from the dead into a resurrected immortal form. So verse 45 says then many of the Jews which came to Marion had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. So this miracle convinces them many of them, but some of them went their ways to the Pharisees and told them what things Jesus had done. You got problems. Let me tell you what just happened over there in Bethany. And then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees in council and they says, what do we do? For this man doeth many miracles. How about we believe Him and follow Him? But rather than that, look at their response. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on Him.
And the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. Then verse 53 says then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. It seems that they’ve now had their legal proceedings, as far as they’re concerned, to say, we’re done, we’ve got to put him to death. If we let him go, we’re going to lose our nation and our place within this leadership structure. We’ve got to find a way to kill Him. And that way is going to be opened up in chapter twelve through one of his apostles. And we’ll cover that in a future episode. So as we come to the close of this episode, it is our testimony that Jesus has power not just over things like leprosy in Luke chapter 17, but over death and over all these things associated with our mortality. If we’ll trust in Him, come to Him and put our full faith in Him, he is the resurrection and the life, not some future event. It’s Him that we should be looking to. And we leave that with you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Know that you’re loved and spread light and goodness.