The lost sheep

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2024-02-29A

Please read Luke 15:1-7.

A. THE GOSPEL’S UNCOMPROMISING SIDE: YOU CANNOT HAGGLE WITH JESUS FOR A DISCOUNT ON THE PRICE OF SALVATION.

In the preceding Scripture passages, Jesus spoke about the strict requirements that are set to enter the Kingdom of God. He told how narrow the entrance is and how great the price that man would have to pay to obtain eternal life. It seemed as if He did not want to let His hearers into His Kingdom, as if He wanted to keep them out instead.

But of course this is not true. He only told them the truth so that those who were half-hearted would realize that they would not be able to cheat or deceive God and try to slip in the back door. There was only one rule for one and all, rich and poor, man and woman, adult and child. Only those who were honest and sincere, those who desired to break away from their sinful way of life, those who were willing to humble themselves, would be accepted by God.

B. THE GOSPEL’S FREE FOR ALL INVITATION: COME, JUST AS YOU ARE; COME RIGHT NOW.

In the passage of Scripture that we are now looking at, Jesus speaks to a group of hardened sinners and one would expect that He would be even stricter with them. We would expect that he would, with a deep frown on his brow, wag the finger at them and speak harshly. Surprisingly He does just the opposite. He tells them a parable denoting God’s compassion for the straying sinner.

C. THE PHARISEES DISTANCED THEMSELVES FROM THOSE THEY CONSIDERED SPIRITUALLY UNCLEAN.

This discussion arose because of the Pharisees’ attitude towards some people who came to listen to Jesus. It often happened that many who were regarded to be great sinners, came to listen to His teaching. Some of them were the Roman government’s tax collectors. They were often dishonest and demanded more than was owed and pocketed the extra income.

Others were notorious thieves, robbers, murderers, fornicators, drunkards and instigators. The Pharisees, who were the church leaders of that time, despised and hated these people. They would never mix with them or even greet them, let alone shake hands. They feared that they would be become spiritually unclean because of it. Also because they knew their friends would avoid them if they were to mix with and be friendly to such despised people.

D. THE RIGHT ATTITUDE: HATE SIN BUT LOVE THE SINNER.

In a sense, they were right. God’s people should not constantly associate closely (be close friends) with those who despise God, lest they be influenced by such wicked people to turn away from God as well. However, Christians should not think they are better than others, but rather be deeply aware that it is only through God’s grace that they can overcome temptations and that deep in their hearts they harbour the same sinful desires. They must confess this openly and when they come into contact with hardened sinners, sit with them in love and tell them how they too can share in the grace of God through the blood of Jesus.

E. THE LOST PERSON IS LOOKING FOR LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE.

Because the religious leaders rejected them, these bad people had no interest in the “church” and never attended meetings. But, they had the same hunger for God as everyone else. God created us in such a way that we have a great need of Him, just as a small baby has a need of its mother. You can give him all kinds of toys and nice clothes, but he will keep crying until his mother hugs him to her chest.

F. A PERSON WITHOUT GOD IS EMPTY WITHIN.

A person can also be compared to a rubber tyre. It has to be pumped full of air. Then, when fully inflated, it is as it was designed to be. Then it rolls comfortably over the most uneven road surfaces and carries the car with ease. If the air leaks out and the tire goes flat, it not only looks bad, but cannot roll and needs to be repaired. 

Man, without God within him, is like a flat tire. Filling it with liquid gold will only make it heavier. Life becomes a burden and there is a longing for God to fill that inner emptyness. A person’s pockets may be full of money, but if his heart is empty of God, his inner unhappiness will be noticable in his eyes and facial expression. Many, if not most, rich people are discontented, grumpy men and women.

G. THE LOST CAN SENSE WHEN SOMEONE IS GENUINELY INTERESTED IN THEM AS A PERSON.

Because these sinners were also looking for peace of mind and happiness, they came to listen to Jesus. They understood well that He would rather condemn their sin than condone it, but saw that He still loved them as people. When He spoke to them, His mouth said, “What you are doing is very, very bad and I will never approve of it,” but at the same time His eyes would say, “I love you; I want you to be my friends, let’s be friends.” They were amazed that such an exceptionally good Man could take such an interest in them. They knew that God’s judgment rested upon them and thought that He would never want to come near them. Jesus knew what was in their hearts and therefore told this parable of the lost sheep to encourage them to let him make them one of his own.

H. THE TRUE SHEPHERD.

He compared himself to a shepherd who had 100 sheep but, when counting them, noticed that one was missing. Now what would he do under such circumstances? Jesus answered his own question, saying “I know very well what you would do if this happened to you. You would immediately think of the one that was missing. You wouldn’t argue that you were actually a rich shepherd with such a large flock. You would keep thinking about the one who was missing. You would know exactly what he looked like. You would even remember what day he was born and what ewe his mother was. You would wonder where he could possibly be. Would he be stuck in a thorn bush out there in the desert, in great danger of being caught by a jackall or having his eyes pecked out by a crow?

Hastily you will leave your other 99 sheep in the care of someone else, put bread in your knapsack, fill your water bag and retrace your footsteps. Every now and then you will stop and call as you usually do when you lead the flock and listen closely to see if you don’t perhaps hear the lost one bleating in the distance in response. You will continue like this all through the night, even until dawn. Then, when you finally find him, you will kneel down next to him where he is lying to see if he is not hurt.

You will not scold or kick him for all the problems he had caused you. You will see how weak he is, feel sorry for him, talk to him gently, pick him up on your shoulders and carry him all the way back to your flock. You will smile all the way and when you approach home, you will shout to your friends: “I found him, I found him.” And the other shepherds will gather around you to see the naughty, lost sheep and will rejoice with you, pat you on the back and joke kindly about the one that got lost but had now been found again.”

“In the same way,” said Jesus, “there is joy in heaven when a lost sinner is found, more joy than over the 99 who slept safely in the fold.”

I. LOVE, TENDERNESS AND UNDERSTANDING SPEAK TO THE HEART OF THE LOST.

What a beautiful story. What a great encouragement this was to those people who had strayed from God. What a motivation to come to Him, the great Shepherd of their souls right there and then, where He was talking to them, so that He could pick them up in the Spirit, on His mighty shoulders and carry them back to His fold.

J. THE JOY OF BEING PART OF HIS FLOCK.

In Jesus’ fold there is spiritual food and water and also safety against the attacks of the devil. Have you ever seen what a blissful expression there is on the face of a sheep that is calmly standing or lying among the others, chewing its cud? There is even greater peace and joy in the heart of the person who was found by God’s Son and now sits peacefully among His children, pondering His words. Oh, I can just see the faces of those harded men and women as they began softening up, tears flooding their eyes as they were listening to these comforting words.

K. INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE FOLD?

Have you been found by Him yet? Do you know His love, care and inner peace because He forgave your sins? We have all gone astray like sheep, each going our own way, thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and now we fear that He will punish us when He finds us. We hide behind all kinds of excuses. Do you hear His voice through this story? Won’t you answer to his call? Answer like this: “Here I am Lord, forgive me and take me back to your flock. Carry me on Your shoulders. From now on, I never want to go my own way again.”

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