1.0 God Cares About People (Luke 15:1-7).
Luke 15:1-7-”1 Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
1.1 Jesus placed a huge value on relationship with God.
- The Bible uses different metaphors to highlight the kind of relationship God desires to have with people.
- God is a Father and He wants us to be His children. This metaphor highlights His desire to love and nurture us up to maturity.
- God is a King and He wants us to be His prince and princesses-sons and daughters. This image shows God’s desire for us to have authority and rights to access His power.
- God is a Shepherd and He wants us to be His sheep. This metaphor illustrates God’s care and regard for us as communal beings. God wants a family and we need a family.
- The parable teaches that even when one person is missing from God’s family it’s extremely important to Him.
- People need to know God’s heart.
- Jesus had a greater than rock star status. All kinds of people wanted to hear Him. This particular crowd had a noticeable faction-the tax collectors and ”sinners” were ALL gathered.
- The Pharisees and religious folks;
- The riffraff; fallen women; and,
iii. The pariahs of the community
Note: The Pharisee’s problem with Jesus was: ”Why are the dregs of society and irreligious people attracted to You and You are welcoming of them?” The flawed thinking of the Pharisees was: Unholy people are not attracted to people who are truly holy. And, holy people do not engage socially with unholy people. Jesus then cannot be holy. He must be a fraud!
- The reason for this parable was a singular one: Jesus wanted to explain to His critics why ”the dregs of society” and the irreligious were attracted to Him and He welcomed them.
2.0 A Sheep is Missing! Now What?
2.1 Feel the Concern!
- We must feel the Good Shepherd’s concern for the lost sheep-even one.
- Something of value is lost. Three times the word lost appears in these 7 verses.
- Jesus asks us to place ourselves as shepherds in His parable in order to fully embrace the moral lesson He wanted to teach.
Luke 15:4-4‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
(1) Jesus’ request of the Pharisees to ”suppose they were shepherds” was a shock to their feelings. Any man who believed shepherds were unclean was sure to be offended if addressed as one.
(2) For the Pharisee, a ‘sinner’ was an immoral person, a deliberate Law-breaker or someone involved in one of a number of trades, including herding sheep.
(3) The word Pharisee means ”separated one”. They were separatists who taught that salvation comes through separation. Jesus’ behavior shamed them.
- The sheep was lost.
- The word lost had many meanings to first century shepherds including:
- Separated from the flock and unable to reconnect without help.
- The sheep was no longer under the shepherd’s watchful eye.
In 2005, 450 sheep jumped to their deaths in Istanbul, Turkey. The Associated Press reported that ”First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.”
”There’s nothing we can do. They’re all wasted,” said [one of the shepherds who] is a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd. The estimated loss to the 26 families that had pooled their sheep together tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average Gross Domestic Product per head is around $2,700. ”Every family had an average of 20 sheep.”
Source: Accessed: March 31, 2017.
iii. The lost sheep was unaware of its lost state. It may be grazing or lying still in unfamiliar places.
Injured and unable to reunite with the shepherd or the flock. The lost sheep was now susceptible to predators or thieves.
Jesus attached a spiritual meaning to the word lost.
Luke 15:7-”7I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
- Lost means to be disconnected from God-a sinner.
- Lost is a temporary state although a serious one because the lost person could be found.
iii. To be found equated to the genuine repentance [change of heart] of the lost person. This is an abandonment of sin in order to be brought into alignment with God.
Our society values missing people.
We value missing adults and kids.
Missing people can be found!
vii. Let’s not lose sight of this fact: God values missing souls even more that we value missing people!
2.2 Face the Challenge!
A) The shepherd must face the challenge to search for the lost sheep.
Luke 15:4-”…Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
Note: The age-old question Cain asked God, ”Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Gen. 4:9] is still being asked today by Christians. God’s answer has not changed. It’s still YES!
God is angry when shepherds are indifferent towards lost sheep.
Jesus underscores the fact that the religious are to view themselves as shepherds, unlike the Pharisees.
The Bible teaches that a shepherd’s care is spelled S.E.A.R.C.H.
iii. Shepherds that don’t search, God considers them bad shepherds.
Ezekiel 34:1-2-”The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?”’
Care is spelled S.E.A.R.C.H.
Jesus’ parable taught that it would be outrageous for a shepherd not to search for his lost sheep.
The lost don’t know they’re lost.
John 12:40-Jesus taught that, ”He [Satan] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn-and I [Jesus] would heal them.”
iii. Satan has blindfolded unbelievers’ eyes, evidenced by the way they prioritize life and what’s truly valuable.
Jesus showed a Shepherd’s care for the lost and they responded.
Ezekiel 34:11-12-”For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”
- How do you search for missing sheep?
- Be intentional.
- Go where lost sheep go.
Look for ways to connect.
Rescue Dogs. One of the attractions we have coming to this year’s Tri-County Fair is a rescue dog show which includes the dog owner sharing his personal story.
Dr. Ravi Zacharias said, ”We have to find the back door to peoples’ hearts because the front door is heavily guarded.”
iii. Spend time with them.
Luke 15:2-”But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
Lost people are all different.
Some are lost due to fear.
Some are lost due to hurt, injury and pain.
iii. Some are lost due to an incorrect image of God.
The common denominator among lost people is that they need your help to be found.
Note: A stray sheep usually lies down helplessly, and will not move, stand up or run. It becomes immobile.
You must be eager to face the challenge of searching for lost people. They need your help! Jesus said, ”They have been blinded by Satan.” They are laying down immobile, perhaps in drugs, or the pursuit of money, education, or good works, etc.
Look around you to identify and engage your lost friends and relatives.
Your search must include people who you know-co-workers, neighbors, and friends-in your search radius.
Include people who you used to know-high school and college friends.
Talk to people who you want to know-people you meet in your daily business and social circles.
Begin the search with prayer.
Have you heard of Brian Phillip Welch, the co-founder and former guitarist of the heavy metal group, Korn? In the video campaign, ”I AM Second” he shares his conversion story in 2012.
Brian used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Plus the success of his heavy metal band introduced him to all kinds of wild sexual parties and lewd behavior.
Brian was far away from God. God wasn’t even on his radar. One day a realtor casually said, ”This may sound weird to you but I just had this verse on my heart for you for a while: Matthew 11:28.”
Brian looked it up and began to study the meaning of each word. This is the verse where Jesus said: ”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Later, the realtor invited him to church where he heard the gospel. At home while about to do some cocaine he said, ”God, if you are real like the preacher said, help me!”
He openly declared through his management in 2005 that he was leaving the metal band because he had ”chosen the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end.” In essence, Matthew 11:28 tells us that Jesus called and Brian came.
2.3 Focus on the Celebration!
Luke 15:5-7-”5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
A) Finding a single lost sheep brought joy to the heart of the shepherd.
Note: The word, celebrate means to rejoice together; to share in another’s joy; to congratulate.
- The shepherd makes the call for his neighbors to share in his joy.
- The lost sheep was found.
(1) The text says, ”suppose one of you has a hundred sheep.” The word ”has” means ”hold in one’s charge or keeping”. The point according to Dr. Kenneth Bailey in his book Poet and Peasant, which provides a literary cultural approach to the parables in Luke, is: The average Middle Eastern family in the first century had 5 to 15 animals.
(2) In the case of a hundred sheep the shepherd is probably not their sole owner. A number of families pool their animals together and hire a shepherd. The phrase ”has a hundred sheep” can mean ”be responsible for a hundred sheep.”
The neighbors were most likely family members.
iii. The loss of one sheep is everyone’s loss. Therefore, the finding of one’s sheep is to everyone’s benefit.
What is the focus of the celebration?
The safe return of the shepherd is cause for celebration.
Note: The shepherd was mimicking the work of the Great Shepherd.
The uniting of the lost sheep with the rest of the flock is the main cause for celebration.
iii. The long, arduous search is over. All the wondering, speculations, and questions of uncertainty are over.
Note: The shepherd of Palestine had to search until he finds it. He either has to bring back a live animal or its remains as proof that he had not sold it.
- Jesus was teaching the religious rulers how they should act based on the behavior of those in heaven.
- There is rejoicing in heaven when even one lost person is found.
- A new person has been added to God’s family.
- The sacrificial death of Jesus scored another point of victory.
iii. Another life has been eternally changed.
Repentance is the key to being found.
On some level Jesus tells the religious folks that they are to be blamed for the loss of the sheep (Luke 15:4).
Luke 15:4-”Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.”
- In other words, we ought to work hard at learning how to search for lost people.
- Work even harder at learning how to engage lost people in spiritual conversations.
Story: Pastor Greg Laurie came across a street preacher while walking down the main street of Waikiki, Hawaii. The street preacher held a sign that read, ”The Wages of Sin Is Death!” and the sign was also painted with flames. He walked up and down the street yelling out, ”You’re gonna burn! God will judge you, sinner! Repent or perish!” Laurie walked up to him thinking that he could help him with his technique. Laurie said, ”Excuse me. I’m a Christian too, but I was thinking that you are really only giving half of the gospel message out here. It is true that the wages of sin is death, but I’m sure you’re aware that the rest of the verse says, ‘But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Why don’t you put that message on the other side of your sign and turn it around every now and then so people get the whole picture?” The street preacher then screamed at Greg Laurie: ”You’re going to hell too.” Source: How to Share Your Faith [p. 12-13].
iii. Work on your technique by being prepared:
- a) Draw illustrations from popular culture so the person connects.
- b) Carry an invitation card with you.
- c) Share what Jesus did for you.
- d) Don’t forget the power of prayer!
Andrew Murray said, ”Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do.”