The Lost Sheep
Good evening. This evening we will continue looking at the parables Jesus gave, and we will be in the 15th chapter of Luke. It is probably one of the best-loved chapters in the Bible. Some people describe it as ‘The Gospel within the Gospel.’ Certainly, in many ways we do have the Gospel in miniature in Luke 15. As someone once said, ‘It contains the very distilled essence of the good news which Jesus had come to tell.’ In Luke 15 we find three parables of Jesus.
Before we get started, let me share with you a story I heard about a couple who just been married. They were on their honeymoon, the husband took his new wife by the hand and said, "Now that we're married, dear, I hope you won't mind if I mention a few little defects that I've noticed about you." To which his wife sweetly replied, "Not at all, it was those little defects that kept me from getting a better husband."
I suppose one might make the point that we can all see defects in other people at times, but we should never let those defects stop us from approaching them with the Gospel of Christ. In Luke 15, we find Jesus sharing His truths with our friends, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
Luke 15:1-2 - “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them.''” This attitude is critical to all of chapter 15 in the book of Luke. All three parables come back to this attitude, this spirit. Have we ever had people doing that with us?
I. Maybe we are talking with someone who is known as a drunkard and other passers by take note of it. Maybe we are seen talking with an undesirable on the street and the people around take notice of you both. If we were to look over at them, we might see them whispering things about us because of the person we are speaking with. They might be saying things like, “If he only knew who he was talking to, if he only knew what kind of person that is.” When we as Christians talk to anyone who doesn’t fit in with societies idea of acceptable, society takes it as an offence.
A. Remember in Luke 7 when Jesus was invited into a Pharisees house, a woman comes from the street and it’s clear that she is not welcome. Jesus says to Simon in Luke 7:33, “Simon, do you see this woman?” That seems a strange question, how could he not see the woman? She’s right there in front of him. The problem was what Simon saw was a tramp, Simon saw a sinner, an unclean woman. Someone who wasn’t good enough by his perceived standards.
B. Just like Simon many people in the world are offended when we say that the Gospel is for everyone, all kinds of people. That’s again the type of thing that’s going on here in Luke 15. It was an offence to the Jewish leaders that Jesus should be seen in association with the tax collectors and sinners.
C. By their own regulations, a Pharisee was forbidden to be the guest of any such person whom they considered unclean. They were also forbidden to have these people as their guests. They weren’t allowed to have any dealings with tax collectors and sinners as far as it was possible. They couldn’t buy things from them or sell things to them. They were to try and avoid any contact with them whatsoever.
D. By understanding the Pharisees’ thinking, we will see why they were shocked by Jesus’ actions. They were not just shocked; they were shocked to the core because Jesus, who was teaching in their midst, wanted to spend time in the company of those outsiders.
E. In their minds if you had anything to do to with those people you were guaranteed to be corrupted.
F. Their attitude wasn’t, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,” but rather it was more on the order of; “There is joy in heaven when one sinner is obliterated by God.” They looked not to the saving of the sinner, but to the destruction of that sinner’s soul. It’s because these religious leaders considered themselves already in the fold which Jesus is about to mention. They should have been glad He was seeking those who were outside the fold.
G. Let us look on at Luke 15:3-6 - “So He spoke this parable to them, saying: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'”
H. This seems to me certainly one of the simplest of parables that Jesus ever taught. In Judea at this time it was very easy for a sheep to go astray. The pastureland was in the hill country, which ran like a backbone down the middle of the land. This ridge-like plateau was very narrow, it was only a few miles across and at its best this pastureland was sparse, so the sheep were liable to wander.
I. In their search for more grass they would wander off into little gullies and ravines and very often they could end up on some ledge where they couldn’t get up or down. All too often they would just stay there until they died.
J. Here in this parable we have one of Jesus’ favorite pictures of God. A picture of a loving, caring shepherd who brought home the wanderer. What I want to do today is share with you 5 small points from this parable about the love of God.
II. First, the love of God is an individual love. What I mean by this is what Jesus says in Luke 15:4 - “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” The 99 sheep were not enough for Jesus, His desire was to have all of them safe in the flock. When one went wandering, He wasn’t going to rest until He brought it back home again.
A. Jesus is telling us that He has a love to offer that’s not just for everyone, but a love especially for us. The Palestine shepherds, you see, were experts at tracking down their sheep and they could follow the tracks of their sheep for miles. They would go to any lengths to bring that sheep back.
B. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 18:12 - “"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” Think of it this way, we would do the same with our family members, wouldn’t we?
C. No matter how big our family is, if one of them goes astray, we would go to all lengths to find them and bring them back to safety. Every time we listen to the news on TV about someone who has a missing family member, they send out pleas for help to find them, some even offer a reward to anyone who can help find the missing one.
D. My point is like this, even if someone has 10 children, if one goes missing, that’s one that they cannot do without. That’s because there is not one who doesn’t matter.
E. Our God is like that, He’s not happy until the last one is gathered in. Remember what Paul says in; 1 Timothy 1:15 - “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Paul is saying when he recognized that he was a sinner; he also understood that God’s love was an individual love. If you’re not a Christian, then God wants to offer that same individual love to you today.
III. Point 2. The love of God is a patient love. We all know how stupid sheep are, they are such foolish creatures. If you don’t know, I certainly will confirm it as we raised many on our farm. To a degree a sheep has no one but itself to blame for the dangers it gets into. You need to be patient with sheep, and we have to be patient with people, especially with those who are sometimes foolish.
A. What do we say when people get into trouble?... I’ll tell you what we often say, “Well, it’s their own fault, they brought it on themselves”. We might even say, “Don’t waste any sympathy on them.” Folks, I am so very glad that our God isn’t like that. A sheep might be foolish but thank God the Good Shepherd would still risk His life to save it.
B. I’ve told this one before... A family went to church one day to celebrate what they call Palm Sunday. Because of a sore throat, five-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with a baby sitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm branches. Little Johnny asked, “What are those for?” His older brother explained to him that "People held them over Jesus' head, as he walked by.” Little Johnny became upset and said, "Wouldn't you know it, the one Sunday I didn’t go, He shows up!"
C. We should thank God He did show up. He came to rescue us from sin, from our foolishness. In John 10:11 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” [para] Thank God for 2 Peter 3:9 where Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” [para] Thank God that even though mankind can be foolish, God in His love, loves even the foolish person who has no one to blame for their sin and their sorrow but themselves. Thank God that He is a loving, patient God.
IV. Third, the love of God is a seeking love. The flocks of sheep in Palestine were very often communal flocks. In other words, they didn’t belong to an individual; they usually belonged to the whole village. Because of that there were usually two or three shepherds with them. That’s one of the reasons the shepherd could leave the other 99. Because if they couldn’t leave the sheep with another shepherd, when they returned, they would find that other sheep would have gone astray.
A. When Jesus came to earth; He came on a “search and rescue” mission, He came to search for the lost and rescue them from their sins. He came for us. The shepherd wasn’t willing to wait to see if the sheep would come back; He went out to search for it. Folks, that’s what the Jews, even today, cannot understand about the Christian idea of God.
B. A Jew of that time would gladly agree with us, if we said that - if the sinner comes crawling wretchedly home to God, then God would forgive them. But we know God is far more wonderful than that. For in Christ Jesus, God came to seek and to search for those who wander. He’s not content to wait until men come home, Oh, no! He goes and searches for them, no matter what it costs. The shepherds of Palestine would always make the most strenuous and the most sacrificial efforts to find a lost sheep.
C. 1 John 4:9-10 - “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
D. Jesus came to find us long before we thought about finding Him. He came to find us. Luke 19:10 - “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
E. John 10:7-10 - “Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
F. On board many military ships nowadays they have sophisticated missiles. Even though they are hundreds of miles away from their targets, they can program the missile to within a few feet of that target. When the missile reaches their intended target, they completely destroy everything at the target. Jesus says He didn’t come to seek and destroy, He came to seek and to give life, not just life -- but life to the full. The love of God is a seeking love. It seeks the best for us.
V. That brings me to my next point. 4. The love of God is a rejoicing love. These parables in Luke 15 are all about joy.
A. We can imagine how the other shepherds would return with their flocks to the village at evening time and how they would tell how one shepherd was still out on the mountains seeking the wanderer. Imagine the eyes of those villagers, watching over the mountains waiting and looking for the shepherd who hadn’t come home yet. Then off in the distance, they would see a figure of someone getting closer to the village.
B. As that figure gets closer, they see that this is the shepherd and the joy in their faces would be great to see. As he gets closer, they see he’s carrying this wanderer of a sheep across his shoulders and it’s still alive. The whole village would come out and joyfully surround him and welcome him home.
C. Nice scene isn’t it? Now, if that were the church, I wonder how we would react. I wonder if we would say things with words OR actions like, “Where have you been for the past few months?” No love in the tone. “What have you been up to?” “Do you need to confess anything before the whole church today?”
D. I’m reminded of Galatians 6:1 - “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness...”
E. With Jesus there are no accusations, there is no receiving back with grudges, there’s no superior contempt. It’s all about joy. Instead of accepting back a person who is repentant with a moral lecture and maybe making it clear that they must see themselves as a disgraceful person. Instead of making it clear that we are going to have trouble trusting them again, maybe we can be like God, who forgets our past sins and doesn’t hold our sins against us.
F. Micah 7:19 - “You will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”[para] When we have God’s forgiveness, God has thrown our sins into the depths of the sea. And folks there are warning signs all around the shore. Do you know what those signs say? -- “No fishing”. -- We should never be in the business of dragging up the past sins in our own lives, never mind the sins of other people’s lives if God has thrown them away.
G. Psalm 103:8-12 - “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”[ESV]
H. When one of the flock goes astray and returns home, instead of reminding them of their sin, we need to put their sin behind our back like God does with ours when we get lost and come back to Him. We all sin; we all have our moments when we go astray. When we put those sins behind, then we too can be happy like Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:13-14 - “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. "Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
I. Do we realize that we can give heaven an excuse to celebrate? I know that many people after they have been in prison for a few years get together with their families to celebrate their newfound freedom. Let me tell you that, that’s nothing, like the celebration that breaks out in heaven when someone returns to God after having gone back to the world.
J. Jesus tells us in Luke 15:7 - “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
K. What we are saying is if you’re involved in a sin, which is dragging you away from God, then you can be sure that if you repent and turn back to God there will be rejoicing in heaven. The day you became a Christian was a day of rejoicing. If you’re not a Christian, on the day you decide to become a faithful follower of the Lord then heaven will rejoice with you. The love of God is a rejoicing love.
VI. Point number 5. The love of God is a protecting love.
A. An old story was told about a sergeant in the army fighting in a war in some far- off land. He and his platoon were called off for a special mission, but the enemy found them, the sergeant faced them head on. While he was facing them he said to himself, “Lord, it’s your responsibility now.” As he raised his gun, a shot from one of his enemies struck him in the chest and knocked him down to the ground. Thinking that he was dead, another soldier grabbed his gun and started to fire away at the enemy. He received three wounds but when he had finished, all the enemies were dead.
B. The sergeant wrote a letter to his sister and it said this, “I was amazed when I rolled over and tried to get up. The force of that bullet only stunned me. I couldn’t understand why, so I pulled out my Bible from my pocket and in utter quietness looked at the ugly hole in the cover.” “It had ripped through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. Where do you think it stopped?” In the middle of Psalm 91, he pointed his finger at verse 7, which says, “A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” He went on to say that he didn’t know such a verse existed in the Bible and in utter humility said, “Thank you, precious Lord.”
C. It’s not just a love that seeks; it’s also a love that saves. There can be a love which ruins, there can be a love that softens, but the love of God is the protecting love which saves a person for the service of their fellow men.
D. Psalm 34:18-20 - “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.”
E. Psalm 55:16-17 - “As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice.”
F. That’s why Paul could say in 2 Corinthians 12:10 - “...For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
G. In other words, it is God’s protecting love that makes the wanderer wise. Its God’s protecting love that makes the weak strong. Its God’s protecting love that makes the sinner pure. Its God’s protecting love that makes the captive of sin a freeman of holiness. Its God’s protecting love that makes those overpowered by temptation... the conquerors of sin. God’s love is a protecting love and God’s love will not only protect us in this life but also in the life to come. As along as we are faithful to Him, then we can be sure that nothing can separate us from His love.
H. Romans 8:34-39 – and I paraphrase; “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul says there is nothing in heaven or in hell or on this earth that can stop God from loving us.
Many years ago, I used to love watching David Carradine in the TV series Kung Fu. Blind master Po would teach him something new every week, but also every week, David had to try and snatch a pebble from his Master’s hand but he never could because His Master’s hands were just too quick. Our God is like that; His hands are just too quick, too big, too powerful for anything to snatch us away from Him. Jesus says in John 10:27-30 - “"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. "I and My Father are one.''”
Jesus says, no-one will snatch us from God’s mighty hands because He’s a protecting God. Folks, that’s the Gospel, that’s the Gospel according to Christ. If you want to share the good news with anyone who’s interested in God, then take them to Luke 15.
Share with them the Gospel within the Gospel and let them know that Jesus’ Gospel is a Gospel of love. Who knows, instead of people thinking that Christianity is all about the things they have to give up to receive God’s love, maybe then they will begin to think about the love that they are going to receive from God, which will help them give up the things they need to give up. The gospel, in a word—is love.
If you’re subject to the invitation, if you’re not a Christian and you want the Lord to add you to His church, you know the way. If you’re a Christian and have been out of fellowship for whatever reason and you recognize that your place is back in fellowship with the Lord’s people, you know the way. We’re going to sing the song of invitation now. Please come forward in response to this invitation—God’s invitation—while we sing.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
This is a continuation on the subject of Love. Previous sermon was “Rainbows” from song 265.
Reference Sermon by: Mike Glover
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