- Parable of the Lost Sheep
- Luke 15:4-7
- Lyndol Loyd July 24, 2016
July 24, 2016
Parables: The Lost Sheep
Jesus often told parables or stories whenever he wanted to be able to communicate truth to people. Stories, whether read, recited or enacted, have always gripped people’s imaginations and emotions. Ask most people and they will tell you that they love a good story.
If you think about it, movies are today’s parables. Theater attendance is at a record high, multiplexes are being built everywhere, and the movie industry is making more money than ever before.
So this morning to help us engage with a story that Jesus told, I want to use a clip from a movie that I think most of you will know because the theme of this movie makes much of the same points that Jesus is making in his parable.
Before there was the current blockbuster, Finding Dory, there was the original 2003 Disney-Pixar animated classic, Finding Nemo. Nemo is a little clown fish. He lives in the Great Barrier Reef with his Dad, Marlin.
Nemo’s mother died when he was still a baby. She died protecting him from a very dangerous fish that wanted to eat him. She had given her life so that her child could live. Marlin, Nemo’s father, loved him very much. He watched over Nemo and protected him from any kind of harm or evil. Nemo and his father were best friends.
Finally the day came when it was time for Nemo to leave his father’s protection and join the other young creatures of the sea for school. Much to Marlin’s dismay, the first day of school begins with a field trip. Worried that it isn’t safe for Nemo to go on such a trip, Marlin follows from a distance as Nemo and his friends decide to venture out on their own.
Eventually Nemo’s behavior gets him into some big trouble as a scuba diver, who happens to be a dentist, snatches him up and takes him back to an aquarium in his office where he is meant to become a present for his niece, Darla.
Nemo’s disobedience caused him to be separated from his father. But it didn’t matter how big the ocean was, or how many fish there were. The father was determined to seek and save his son. The rest of the movie is about the lengths the father is willing to go to so that he is no longer separated from his son.
Eventually word gets back to Nemo about his father. Let’s take a look:
SHOW MOVIE CLIP
A son who is disobedient and his actions get him into trouble. A father who loves his child so much that he would go to any lengths to rescue him. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel that the writers of Finding Nemo took their inspiration straight from scripture.
Once, when he was speaking, Jesus told a story that was very much like the story of Nemo. If you are able I invite you to stand and join me as we read from God’s Word together.
“4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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!”
In scripture Jesus talks a great deal about what it means to be lost. And over and over again in scripture, we find Jesus gravitating to lost people. It didn’t make much sense to others, but to Jesus, it was a calling.
The Scribes and the Pharisees couldn’t get over the fact that Jesus was hanging out with people that they wouldn’t be caught dead with. Jesus was associating with the wrong crowd in their minds. These people were sinners after all.
The Pharisees were upstanding citizens who kept the law and rather than hanging out with them, Jesus was building relationships with what were referred to as “People of the Land.”
This was simply not to be done. You couldn’t trust these people with money. You certainly wouldn’t think of allowing your daughter to marry one of them.
People of the Land couldn’t be trusted to keep a confidence. You wouldn’t want to allow them to oversee anything of value. And it was unthought of to travel with one of these people.
A Pharisee would have been forbidden to have one of these people as a guest or even be their guest. Business dealings were forbidden as well. The aim was to have no contact at all with people who didn’t observe the petty details of the law.
So obviously the Pharisees were more than a little bit shocked that Jesus would place himself in the company of such people who were not only outsiders, but rank and file sinners.
Jesus said that there would be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents of his or her sin. The Pharisees thinking was more along the lines that there would be joy in heaven over one sinner who got what he deserved.
Realizing how messed up the thinking of the Pharisees was, Jesus decided to paint a new picture of God for them by telling them this story we read about the lost sheep.
To be a shepherd in Judea wouldn’t have been the easiest of jobs. The work was hard and it was dangerous to boot.
The available pasture land was rather scarce and the narrow central plateau was only a few miles wide, and then it plunged down to the wild cliffs and finally to the dessert below.
There were no restraining walls to keep them from falling. The sheep would wander away. A lamb might begin to nibble its way across a pasture, moving from one tuft of green grass to another, perhaps through a hole in a fence.
When the lamb was through nibbling, the creature couldn’t find the hole it had come through. The lamb is lost. Some of us know what that is like to nibble ourselves bit by bit into the far country.
Meanwhile, the shepherd trying to tend to the flock – sleepless, far-sighted, weather beaten – remained personally responsible for his flock.
If a sheep was lost the shepherd had to at least bring home the fleece to show how it had died. So these shepherds became experts at tracking down lost sheep. They could follow a straying lamb’s hoof prints for miles across the hills.
There wasn’t such a thing as a shepherd who wasn’t willing to risk his life for his sheep. It was simply a part of the job. As a matter, of fact it was more than a job, it was a calling.
Many of these flocks were communal flocks, belonging not to individuals, but entire villages. There would be two or three shepherds in charge. Those whose flocks were safe would arrive home on time and bring news that one shepherd was still out on the hillside searching for a lost lamb.
The whole village would be on watch, and when in the distance, they saw the shepherd come walking home with the lost sheep across his shoulders, there would be celebration amongst the whole community.
That is the picture Jesus drew of God; that shepherd is what God is like.
When someone who has lost his or her way and has been separated by the consequences of his or her sin, God rejoices, just like the shepherd who would find his missing sheep and bring it back home.
God is so much kinder than we are. Have you thought about that? He really is. While our tendency is to write people off as being beyond help or return, God never does that. He never gives up on us.
We might give up hope in someone’s chances to straighten out his or her life, but not God. God loves us all, but God especially loves the kind of people who are prone to stray away.
Sure God loves those who never go astray, those who have never known what it is like to be lost, to be out of place from where God would have them to be.
But God finds immeasurable joy in seeing someone who was lost find his or her way back home to his arms of love. While others might want to shun you like the Pharisees, God is always ready and willing to help you find your way back.
No Pharisee had ever dreamed of God being like that. This was an absolutely new concept that Jesus is laying out before them for their consideration – that God actually searches after lost people.
They might have agreed that if a person came crawling home to God in self-abasement and prayed for pity, he might find it; but never would a Jew of this time have conceived of God as being someone who searched out sinful people.
We believe in the seeking love of God, because we see that love incarnated in Jesus Christ, his Son, who came to seek and save that which was lost.
It occurs to me that there are really two different groups of people I need to speak to this morning. First I want to talk to those of you who feel lost this morning, as in you are out of place with where God wants you to be.
Maybe you are like the lamb who gradually nibbled himself away from the shepherd? Maybe you were once close to God, but somehow gradually over time you’ve drifted away.
Or maybe you’ve felt lost your entire life. Maybe you’ve been on a life long journey seeking, sensing that there has to be something more to life than what you have experienced.
Isaiah 59:1-2 (Message) – “Look! Listen! GOD’s arm is not amputated–he can still save. GOD’s ears are not stopped up–he can still hear. 2There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.”
In either case if that is you, you need to know that God is seeking after you. He wants to help you find your way back home so that you might know and experience his love, mercy and grace. He wants to help you remove the barrier of sin which keeps you separated.
The second group is made up of those of you who, as the song “Amazing Grace” puts it, “once were lost, but now are found.” When you know what it is to no longer be lost, you should come to the realization that lost people matter to God.
Because we are thought of as being part of the “Bible Belt”, my hunch is that most of you are probably under the illusion that we live in a very religious, Christian community here in Lubbock. I did some demographic research this past week, and I think some of you might be shocked to learn what I discovered about the people who live within a 5 mile radius of LakeRidge UMC (Source: MissionInsite.com).
- 32% do not believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead as the Bible teaches.
- 27% do not believe that Jesus is the only way for human salvation from sin.
- 39% do not believe that Jesus rules now as Lord of Heaven and Earth.
- 19% fall into the category of “None” when it comes to religious preference. (So if Lubbock has 250,000 people that means that 47,500 of our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members fall into the category of what Jesus would have been talking about when he talked about being lost.)
We need to see the faces of those right under our noses who are out there, who are out of place, who have gone astray from where God would have them.
There is a question we must answer. Are we willing to be the kind of church that truly believes lost people matter to God? Are we willing to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others by extending the love and grace of Jesus Christ to them?