Luke 7:36-50
Luke 15:1-3, 8

Do you remember the Beatles?

Most of us thought John Lennon had it all; fame, money, girls! We thought he lived a charmed life; a kid from the hicks, Liverpool, nothing good ever came out of Liverpool, makes it big. He lives a glamorous life; instantly recognized all over the world.

And yet despite his fortune and fame, he could describe himself as a Nowhere Man. He had been under pressure to write another hit song. Spent 5 hours late one night trying to come up with something but nothing came. And he began to think, I’m a nobody, a nowhere man, my whole life has been tied up with music but now I can’t think of a thing to write about. “I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and getting nowhere.” 1

Lennon’s explanation places the song in a category of his other self-deprecating songs: I’m Down, I’m a Loser, I’m Only Sleeping, I’m So Tired, I’ll Cry Instead.

It’s surprising to many that when John Lennon thought about himself, he often concluded that he didn’t matter. Why? Because he didn’t matter to his father who left him when John was 8 years old. He didn’t matter to his mother Julia, who didn’t want to be a mother and so handed John over to her sister Mimi to raise.

The resultant pain was expressed in Lennon’s song, Mother, which contains the words, Mama you had me, but I didn’t have you, Father you left me, but I didn’t leave you; and a five-time repeated phrase at the end of the song that grows in painful intensity: mama don’t go, daddy come home. 2

He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to, isn’t he a bit like you and me? 3

Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

It is quite possible that somewhere along the way of our journey, someone, perhaps someone significant made us feel that we didn’t matter. They criticized us, and/or disapproved of us, and/or they yelled at us, perhaps they unfairly disciplined us, maybe fired us, or as in John’s case, perhaps someone significant left us.

And, like John, we were made to feel that we didn’t really matter very much.

I saw this letter on a website forum earlier this week:

Hi, my name is Alyssa. I have been feeling like everything I do doesn’t matter. And to others I can’t do anything right. It has just been making me feel like shit. I thought I was past that when I left school, but to think my own family would make me feel this way. I feel like my parents don’t care about me. My brother is constantly down my throat about something I did wrong. My other brother, honest to God does not talk to me anymore. None of them would ever ask or care how I am. I stay home all the time feeling depressed about myself. I just feel so alone right now in my life that no one would care I were dead. In fact they would all benefit from it, and I can’t stop feeling this way. 4

Then, too, many of us play the comparison game. We look at the biggest stars, the brightest and most beautiful people, the best athletes, the most buff people, the wealthiest individuals and conclude that in light of them, our lives do not measure up and therefore, we don’t matter very much at all.

When for whatever reason, we come to the conclusion that we don’t matter much, it easy to also conclude we do not matter to God very much.

How many well-meaning parents used God as a big stick? “Johnny, don’t roll your sisters head up in the car window, God will get you for that.” “Susy, how many times do I have to tell you that if you keep lying, God is going to be mad at you.”

How many well-meaning preachers have said, “If you engage in that kind of behavior, God will send you to hell!”

Is it any wonder that there are so many people who have concluded that they don’t matter to God?

These dynamics are not unique to our times.

The first two verses of Luke 15 portrays the religious leaders of Jesus’ day as excelling in making people feel they didn’t matter to God.

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! (Luke 15:1-2).

If those verses in Luke 15 generalize the attitude of the Pharisees, the story in Luke 7 specifically illustrates it. Simon, the Pharisee, not only measured this woman up as a sinner who didn’t deserve to even be in his house, but he also concluded Jesus didn’t matter to God for when he saw the woman lavish praise on Jesus: “he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!’” (Luke 7:39).

The Pharisees had it all worked out about who mattered to God. Pharisees, religious leaders, rich people; they all mattered to God. Non-Jewish folks, poor people, sick people, people who sinned; they didn’t matter to God. And because they concluded they didn’t matter to God, they didn’t matter to them. And so they shunned them.

The woman in Luke’s story who grew up in that culture, like many people today, had come to believe that because of the way she was living her life, she could not and did not matter to God. And that belief had a dramatic impact on how she lived her life.

The same is true of twenty-three-year-old Jenny who was a pretty young woman with a seemingly pleasant personality.

But her parents were more into pursuing the American dream than helping Jenny discover hers. And the only time they talked with her was to correct her for what they thought she was doing wrong. Similarly, her pastor had a propensity to constantly warn his flock of punishment that would certainly follow any misbehavior.

As a result, Jenny was torn up inside, thinking she didn’t matter to anyone. She bombed out of college, was on the verge of being fired from her job, and was suffering from an eating disorder.

A professor who knew Jenny was in the midst of planning a week-long spiritual retreat for some of his seminary students, and even though she was not one, invited her along. To his surprise she agreed to attend and not long after they arrived, he sat down with her privately. “Jenny, I want you to know that I didn’t invite you here so I could help you change your behavior.”

“But I have always been told my behavior is my biggest problem,” she replied.

“I’m not worried about your behavior,” he said, “it’s your beliefs I’m interested in. I’m praying you will change your beliefs about God and who you are to Him. You are not a failure, you are not a bad person, you are a child of God, no better or worse than any other person on this retreat. And Jesus offers you the same opportunity to become all He wants you to be He offers every one of His children. I want you to start believe that because it is the truth.”

And for the first time in her life, Jenny had been affirmed as the person of value to God that she was. And over the course of that week, decided she was going to practice believing it. And over the course of the next six months, a miraculous transformation took place in Jenny. Her circumstances didn’t change, but Jenny did, as she convinced herself that she really did matter to God. 5

Jenny changed! She accepted what God’s word says about her. She began to see herself for who she really was in Christ. She began to believe that she mattered to God!

We really matter to God!

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:4-7).

We are not an accident. We matter to God. Even before the universe was created, God had us in mind, and He planned us for His purposes. These purposes will extend far beyond the few years we will spend on earth. We were made to last forever!

That’s why in each of the three stories in Luke 15, there is a celebration when that which is lost is found:

‘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! (6b-7).

‘Rejoice with Me because I have found My lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents. (9b-10)

But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. (22-24)

We too matter to God! It doesn’t matter what we’ve been taught or believed about ourselves before. We are in Christ! That is solid biblical truth; believe it! If we begin to walk in this truth, our lives will change for the better!

Just ask another girl named Jenny.

Everyone agreed that she got wilder with each passing month. Taller and more physically mature than many of her friends, she found it easy to attract older guys by merely tossing her strawberry blond hair and giving a faint, flirty smile. By the time she was a sophomore in high school, she was experienced in all the vices the world could dangle in front of her.

Considering her home life, it would have been amazing if she would have turned out any other way. Her father, long out of the picture, had left her with a drug-using mother, who, in a warped attempt at bonding, actually gave Jenny drugs so they could get high together.

Somehow in spite of her upbringing, Jenny agreed to attend a junior high game night put on by a local church. Even though she never went back, something in the pastor’s message found its way into her heart as he spoke about the prostitute who felt so sorry for the way she had been living she cried at the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet dry with her hair.

By the time Jenny was a senior, she was out of control raging night after night. At 2 am one morning, as she rode in the back seat of a car with her girlfriends after a party, God’s Spirit began to break through to Jenny. Suddenly the self-loathing and guilt exploded in her mind. She was sick of her life and ashamed of her behavior. And remembering that experience at church, she broke with her friends, drove to that church building, not thinking that at 2 am no one would be there.

But as she drove down the driveway, she spotted him. It was Jesus, arms outstretched, standing on a concrete pad in a small garden next to a parking lot. Jenny ran to Him, dropped in front of the lifelike statue and began to weep. Then the story she had heard a couple of years before came back. And she concluded with keen insight that if that prostitute mattered to Jesus back then, then she mattered to Him today! With tears of repentance and joy, she washed the feet of the statue, and with her hair, she dried off them off.

If you have yet to experience the great joy of running to and coming to know Christ, it is my great joy to point you to Him today!

1 Turner, Steve. The Complete Beatles Songs. [New York: Dey St. © 2015]. Page 134.

2 Lennon, John. Mother. Song on album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. 1970.

3 Lennon/McCartney. Nowhere Man. Song on album Rubber Soul by Beatles. 1965.


5 Franks, Allen, H. Out of Darkness, Overcoming Depression by Discovering Who You Are In Christ. [Kansas City: Nazarene Church, © 2000] Pages 15-16.