The portrait of God as judge is not one that sits altogether well among many modern Christ-followers, yet this image is at the heart of several portraits about God in the Old Testament. . .
Our benefit is that Christ serves as a proactive mediator who not only summons wayward sheep back to him, but seeks them out from their recesses of sinful choices and confusing chaos. – Thomas Boone
The whole of chapter 15 is about God's joy at the restoration of the lost. Luke indicates that Jesus told these stories in response to complaints regarding his practice of welcoming those outside the purity system, the tax collectors and sinners. . .
One must marvel at the audacity of Jesus' choice of images. The parables ask the listeners to identify with a shepherd and a woman, yet shepherds were regarded as dishonest and unclean, while women were regarded as inferior and unreliable. When Jesus asked, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep,” surely the answer was, “We're not shepherds. Shepherds are dishonest and unclean.” And when Jesus asked about leaving the ninety-nine in the wilderness to go in search of the missing one, the listeners must have wondered about the recklessness of leaving the ninety-nine. Likewise, when Jesus asked about the woman, his listeners would certainly have resisted identifying with her. The twist for both stories comes at the end. By linking the rejoicing of God with the rejoicing of the shepherd and the woman, Jesus has called into question the purity distinctions that gave religious sanction to social prejudice. – Aaron J. Couch
Speculation abounds on the relationship between this story and the account of King Jeroboam's golden calves in the royal sanctuaries of Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:25–33). It is not difficult to imagine that this story was created in Jerusalem as a reaction against the competing sanctuaries in the north. The calf seems to be identified with the LORD, to some extent, in that it is referred to as the gods who brought the people out of Egypt. It is likely that, consistent with ancient Canaanite religious symbolism, the calf itself was imagined as a throne for the invisible gods. – Aaron J. Couch
1 Timothy 1:12-17
The post-Pauline author offers Paul as an example of one who has received God's great mercy. Paul has been chosen to serve God, even though he was formerly the worst of sinners. The author's rhetorical skills are a joy to observe. Describing how Paul received mercy, the author offers two different reasons. God showed mercy because Paul acted ignorantly (v 13) and because Paul's formerly wicked life serves as an indication of the expansive greatness of God's patience and goodness (v 16). These two reasons are not truly complementary, since the first suggests a lack of moral culpability, while the second requires it. In between the two reasons for God's mercy, the author calls to the reader's memory a creedal affirmation: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The rhetorical effect of this affirmation is to underscore and accentuate and highlight the breathtaking greatness of God's generosity and mercy. – Aaron J. Couch
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Thomas Boone is Transitional Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia. His PhD from Loyola University of Chicago, focussed on Johannine literature.
Homily Service 40, no. 10 (2007): 30-40.