Thank you very much. It’s truly a joy to be here, and I’m thankful for any opportunity to simply open up God’s Word and consider together what it means, why God gave us that portion of His Word and how we can live like it’s true. I think with the passing of time, with every year that goes by, more and more I see just our utter need, our utter dependence upon God’s Word in every area of life. All I want to do today is open the Word together and look at it and see what it says, how we can live like it’s true, how we can help other people to live like it’s true, as well.
You can turn to the book of Luke and chapter 15. Luke chapter 15. We’ll be focused there for a few minutes this afternoon. I’ll read the first ten verses for you so you’ll know our context and what we’re talking about. Luke chapter 15, beginning in verse 1. I’ll read in the ESV. I think most translations are quite similar. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.” That is Jesus. “And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, ‘There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” So, I was thinking about this passage I thought about this simple quote I came across a little while ago. “Man is enemy to his own happiness.” Think about that. Man is enemy to his own happiness, and we’re talking biblical counseling here, right, so you know this one. We hate to be sad. All of us, humanity, we hate to be sad. We long to be happy, but there’s this massive disconnect. We hate being sad. We want to be happy, but we have such trouble finding happiness, finding true happiness, finding lasting happiness. That thing we want is just so illusive.
Then, we think we found it, and we grab ahold of it and yet somehow it seems that it slips away from our grasp just when think we’ve got it we finally found that source of happiness we find it’s actually eluded us. Once again we’re left with a fake. We’re left with a fraud. You don’t have to take my Word for that, you can just read the book of Ecclesiastes, right? God gave us an entire book that in many ways that’s the theme of it, our search for happiness and our inability to find it.
I was thinking recently about the celebrity suicides we’ve seen recently and how several people have taken their own lives, people who were, from our assessment, living the life, people who seemed to have it all, people who seemed to have what we think would bring happiness, or what the culture around us would bring happiness. I think there’s certain people we can understand why that person would take their life, but these celebrities, like they’ve got it all. They’ve got fame, and they’ve got popularity, and they’ve got money, and they’ve got power. That seems like if I had those things I would be so fulfilled. I think that’s why our culture gets so rocked when celebrities, of all people, take their lives. We just can’t understand, “How could you have all that and still be missing joy?”
We go looking for happiness. We go looking for joy in all the wrong places, and I think any one of us could think about our own lives and just sort of do a reverse biography. You know, just start in the present day and trace our lives back to the beginning and just see all these different things. We thought this will bring me joy. No, this will bring me joy. If I just get this I’ll be content. If I just have that I’ll be fulfilled, or if this thing is just taken away from me then, at last, I’ll have that sense of satisfaction. But, in the end every single one of those things it promises a lot; it delivers not nearly so much. We’re left disappointed. We’re left to start allover again.
If you can’t see it in your own life, and you’re a parent, you can definitely see it in the life of your kids, I’m sure. Do you remember fidget spinners? Remember when that was all the rage where all the kids needed a fidget spinner? My daughter was 11 at the time, and she knew that a fidget spinner was the path to fulfillment, the path to joy and happiness. If she could have one of these things. Of course, they were very hard to find. So, I thought this was gonna be a teachable moment. I will buy her a fidget spinner. So, sure enough, I went out and I finally found one. There were actually trucks parked at the side of the road just labeled “fidget spinners.” It was the weirdest thing.
We bought her a fidget spinner. You know what they are, right? You just spin it. I mean that’s it all, just a little thing you hold in your hand and you spin. We gave her her fidget spinner and she loved me in that moment like she’s never loved me before, and she took the fidget spinner. She spun it a few times and you could just see in her mind, you could just see in her eyes that sense of, “Is this it? Is this all? Is this all this is gonna do?” Within two days it had been forgotten, so that thing that her heart said she needed turned out to be a complete waste. Thankfully she has found the path to joy, which is an iPhone. She doesn’t have one yet but she knows that when she does then, at last, her life will be complete.
We can laugh but we can go and look at our own lives and just see those things, or those people, or those experiences that, “If I just have that I will be content at last.” So much of our lives with people who are in ministry, people who are counseling, people who are pastoring is drawing people to those things, right? “Why did you think that would bring joy? What was it in that thing that you thought would bring satisfaction? Tell me about how it failed to deliver.” We’re drawing people to those idols, to those things that stood in the place of God as the source of happiness.
As we read those little parables that I read for you earlier, they’re about joy. They’re about satisfaction. They’re about happiness. As we read them we see God and the angels together celebrating, expressing joy. That sounds like happiness. It sounds like the kind of thing that delivers true and lasting pleasure. If it’s enough for the angels and God Himself to have a party wouldn’t you be curious about what that is? Through looking at this parable that Jesus told, the parable of the lost sheep and, of course, a parable is an allegory, it’s a fictional story but there’s a deeper meaning behind it. Jesus actually told two of these, three of these, back to back. To some degree they all have the same story. They all have the same moral. They all have the same meaning, but we’ll look mostly at the one about the lost sheep, and then just borrow a few elements from the second one about a woman who’s lost her coin.
Of course, Jesus wasn’t just a story teller. He wasn’t just spinning a good yarn. When he told a story there was always a purpose. There was always a meaning behind it. We find that purpose in the context. We can’t understand the parables unless we understand the context. What was he doing when he told that story? Who was around Him when He told that story? What was going on? Well, the context for this one is very simple. It’s right there for us in verses 1-3. “We find now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus, and the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them,'” and so he told them this parable.
So, Jesus is spending time with tax collectors and with sinners. These are the bad people in that society, right? These are the unwanted, the looked down upon, the people who are known by their poor reputation. Tax collectors, of course, were traitors, people who stole from their own people, enriched themselves on the back of their own people, and at the same time were subservient to the Roman overlord, so they were hated. Sinners were maybe just the rest of the bad people in society, the prostitutes, the thieves, people like that, the criminals. These are people who know that they’re bad. These are people who know that they’re doing things that are wrong. These people aren’t fooling anyone. They’re not fooling themselves. These are the bad people in that society, and here’s Jesus hanging out with them.
He’s not just there to preach at them. He’s actually there to spend time with them. He’s not just breaking into their community to scold them. He’s enjoying their hospitality. He’s taking advantage of their company. He’s in their homes, and He’s loving them. Shocking that such a good man would spend time with such bad, bad people. And, yet, somehow these people are drawn to Him. Somehow there’s a kind of connection here.
Then, there’s a second group of people around Jesus, the Pharisees and the scribes. These are, of course, the very opposite of the tax collectors and sinners. These are the holy people. These are the good people. These are the ones who live in such a way that everybody sees their good deeds. The people who make sure you see their good deeds, right, the ones who will blow the trumpet before they give their offering just so you know how holy they are. They’ve got this spotless record of doing all the right stuff. They obey every rule. They give regularly. They hold their heads high when they walk through society. They are seen. They are known.
So, here’s Jesus eating with these sinners, eating with these tax collectors, and these other people see it. They see who He’s spending time with and they are disgusted. They are outraged, because they think that spending time with these people is the same thing as joining in their depravity, that spending time with them is endorsing their lifestyle, endorsing their sin. This Jesus guy should know better than that, shouldn’t He, they’re thinking? This guy, He’s need higher standards for Himself. So, two groups of people in the context for this one, people who are convinced of their own badness and people who are convinced of their own goodness. You’ve got to keep that in mind as we move forward.
Let’s also consider this. The Pharisees and the scribes were very, very careful to stay away from the people that they deemed sinners. They, especially refused to eat with them, because eating was really spending time, it was accepting hospitality. It was really joining in to somebody’s home, to somebody’s life. It meant that they were having real fellowship. It wasn’t just a handshake in the market, or just a quick conversation. This meant you were really joining in with them. The religious folk, the scribes, the Pharisees, they thought that people like that, spending time with people like that would contaminate you. Your own moral purity would be affected by spending time with those immoral, impure people. So, here’s what they did. In order to protect my own reputation I need to stay away from people like that.
You see there’s one group of people you could spend time with there that would enhance your reputation. Just by your proximity to those scribes and Pharisees, that would be good for you to be seen around them. Then, there’s this other group of people, to spend time around would actually harm your reputation. It’s like their goodness, the goodness of the scribes and Pharisees would transfer over to you by your proximity, and their badness of those sinners and tax collectors would transfer over to you by your proximity.
I wonder if we as Christians can fear that there’s some sort of transfer that happens like that, especially around the bad people. Whoever it is that society deems as being bad. If we spend time with them does that tarnish my reputation? Am I concerned that if I’m seen with him, if I spend too much time around her that these people who matter so much to me, I want to look good in their eye, would they see that my reputation is being diminished by my proximity to those people?
We were talking about this earlier just back in the room there. Who are the sinners and who are the tax collectors today? We don’t hold it against the tax man. We have to give a portion of our money every year to that person. That doesn’t diminish him in our eyes. Who are those people today? I really think it varies a whole lot from context to context, church to church, town to town, country to country. But, somewhere around us there are people that we fear if I am seen around them their reputation will tarnish me. I will be diminished in the eyes of others because I’m spending time with them. Yet, that’s exactly the people Jesus was spending time with. He was not spending time with the people whose goodness would transfer over to Him. Others thought the badness would transfer over to Him. Something to think about.
Are you willing to spend time with people society, or just Christian culture, considers the sinners and tax collectors? Or does your desire to protect your own reputation mean you’re holding them at bay? You won’t spend time with them, or you might do the equivalent of having that polite conversation, but you won’t join in. You wouldn’t accept hospitality. You wouldn’t have them into your home. You wouldn’t have them around your children. The religious people around Jesus only wanted to spend time with people who had already cleaned themselves up. Jesus was spending time with people who were filthy, people who knew they were filthy.
All right, so here’s our context. Jesus spending time with sinners and tax collectors, the good religious folk grumbling and complaining about it. So, for that reason, in that context, He told this parable, primarily for those religious people. He primarily told it for their sake. We call this the parable of the lost sheep, but, as we’ll see it’s not really as much about a lost sheep is it? What we’ll see. Three things I want to draw out. First, the shepherd’s anguish, second, the shepherd’s quest, and third, the shepherd’s joy. So, there’s anguish, and then his quest, and then his joy.
Verse 4, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” This is a very normal setting. It’s a little bit odd for us maybe, but this is a very normal setting for the people around Jesus. It’s a field, it’s a flock of sheep, and it’s a shepherd. This is something those people were familiar with. They would have seen it every day. Might be like us talking about a man was standing at a bus stop, or something, right. Immediately in our minds we all have a context. We know exactly what’s going on.
Today, in this story something happens with this shepherd. It’s at the end of the day. He’s about to head home to get some rest. Suddenly his heart skips a beat. Something’s wrong. What’s wrong? Well, the shepherd has a 100 sheep. This is a big flock of sheep, but something isn’t right. He decides he better do a head count, 96, 97, 98, 99. He counts again, still 99. He counts a third time, still 99, so now he knows one of his sheep has gone missing. Now, be clear, this is a good shepherd, not just any shepherd, not just a hired hand, not some temporary help.
This is the good shepherd. He knows, and he loves his sheep. The sheep know his voice. He knows his sheep by name. So, by now he knows not only that one of his sheep is missing, he knows which one is missing. It’s that one, the one with the speckles, or the one with the ear that flops to the side, or the one with that mark on its nose, or whatever. He had cared for that sheep’s mother before the sheep was born. He was there on the night that her little lamb was born. He cared for it. Since it was born he carried it when it was tired. He tended to it when it was sick. He watched it grow into an adult, and now it’s gone. It’s gone missing. You know his mind immediately races. He begins to imagine all that could have befallen this precious little sheep of his, because he knows what it means for a sheep to go missing.
Now, if you spend any time around sheep, or learning about sheep, or whatever, you’ll learn that they are not nature’s survivors, right. They’re not strong and independent creatures. They’re not proud hunters. They’re not fierce predators. These are creatures who absolutely need a shepherd. These are creatures who are absolutely dependent upon their shepherd for at least a few different reasons. First, sheep just aren’t that smart. Sheep are dumb. Just this little news story from a couple years ago, “Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in Eastern Turkey today, plunging to their deaths while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 meters to their death in a ravine, but broke the fall of another 1100 animals who survived. Shepherds from a nearby village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.” This is what we’re dealing with here. Here are these shepherds. They just go to have breakfast. They turn around and the entire flock has walked off a cliff. Sheep need a shepherd. They’re just not that smart.
You think about how often we in the Bible are referred to as sheep. It’s not really a compliment. Jesus is communicating something we ought to pick up on. So, sheep are dumb. Second, they’re directionless. Sheep just wander. You can put a sheep in a perfect surrounding, it’s still going to wander off. That’s just what sheep do. That’s why you need a shepherd. That’s why the shepherd is, he’s walking around. That’s why … Today at least they use dogs, right, or they have to round them up. Otherwise, they just wander off endlessly.
Then, sheep are defenseless. Left to itself a sheep is not gonna last very long. You can apparently take just about any animal, domesticated animal, and let it free in the wild and most of them have some chance of survival. From what I understand a sheep is not that way. You let it go, it’s not going to survive. It makes sense. They’re not fierce. They don’t have big fangs. They don’t have claws. They don’t have wings. They’re not fast. They’re defenseless.
When we talk about a shepherd who has lost his sheep, this sheep is wolf bait, right? It’s just like a walking wolf eater, it’s not gonna survive out there. I think this is why Christians care so much for those who have never known the Lord. I’ve been reading a lot of history lately, and a lot of it written by unbelieving people, and they talk about evangelism, and they just don’t get it. They don’t get the genuine soul-deep care we have for people who are wandering. We know the dangers they face. Just like the shepherd knows the danger faced by this sheep as it wanders alone in the wilderness. We know those who have never come to Christ, or those who have heard about Christ and chosen to wander off, we have a deep, deep sense of what they’re facing. We have a deep knowledge of the peril they’re in, because it’s not just sheep who are dumb, and directionless, and defenseless. That’s all of us when we’re in this world without a shepherd, with all the powers of darkness, not to mention our own fallen nature up against us. No wonder, then, that we have such a deep care for the wanderers.
So, the sheep is gone and the shepherd now realizes, “My sheep is gone.” In fact, “That sheep is gone.” How should he respond? What would be the best thing to do in this context? What would be appropriate? Maybe that’s “Shepherd, it’s fine. Just leave him. You’ll be going that way again tomorrow, or the day after. You can find him that time.” No, no, this sheep needs me. If I leave him out there … He doesn’t have a day or two. If I leave him out he will be devoured in no time.” How about this, “Shepherd, Don’t be silly. You’ve got 99 other sheep. You’re still wealthy. You’ve still got a big flock. Just don’t worry about it.” “No, I know this one. I know him by name. I can’t leave this sheep out there.”
“Shepherd, rest easy. Come on. Your sheep will come wandering back eventually. He knows the way home.” “No, sheep wander. This sheep would never return to the fold unless I go and I draw him back.” How about this, “Shepherd, that sheep left you and wandered off. He deserves his fate. Just leave him. Forget about him. Move on.” “No, no, I love this one. My heart goes out to this one. My flock will never be complete without this one,” and so the shepherd does the one thing that every good shepherd would do, he leaves his flock in the open country. That’s where it’s safe. There’s other people around. There’s no predators there. He leaves his flock and he goes out to find the one, which leads us then to the shepherd’s quest.
In verse 4, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” So, the shepherd retraces his steps. He thinks very carefully back over the day. He remembers. He remembers where the sheep lay down and rested in the green pastures. He remembers that place where he led them to drink from the cool, still waters. He remembers where he saw a predator and had to use that rod he carries to drive it away. He remembers where he saw a little one stumble and he had to use his staff to comfort it, to help it back on it’s feet. He remembers the dark valley they had to go to to get to the pastures that morning. Maybe he’s there. Maybe it was then that this one wandered off.
See, the search of his, it is directed, it’s directed at this one sheep. He’s not going out just looking for any sheep, right. He is looking for his sheep, the one that he loves. The only way this search, this quest of his, can be successful is if he finds his sheep. His search is intense. His neck is swiveling. His ears are listening. His eyes are looking. His voice is calling. He’s doing everything he can to find his sheep. Ultimately, his search is successful. Finally he hears something. It sounds like a sheep. He sees something, that glimpse of white against a gray background, and his heart leaps, and he runs toward it, calling out and there it is at least. He’s found his sheep. It’s safe, it’s unharmed, it’s alive. He’s found it.
We jump then to the parable of the lost coin, that parallel parable. Jesus says, “What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, doesn’t light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?” She does everything in her power to find the coin. So, that coin has fallen on the rough floor of a peasant person’s house. There’s lots of places it could have gone. So, she lights a lamp to illumine the house, and she takes her broom and she’s sweeping carefully under the tables and into the corners. She’s looking into every crack, every crevice. Her eyes are straining to see a glint of light. Her ears are straining to hear just the metallic sound of a coin scraping across the floor. She doesn’t give up until she has found it. The woman finds her coin. The shepherd finds his sheep. Do you see the compassion? Do you see the care?
Think about this. What does the sheep contribute to the story? This has gone down in history as the parable of the lost sheep. What does it contribute? Just it’s lostness. What does the coin contribute to the story? Just it’s fallenness. All they contribute to the story is the problem that makes the quest necessary in the first place. That’s all they do. What does the shepherd contribute? Everything. He searches, he calls, he seeks, he finds. In the lost coin, what does the woman contribute? Everything. She searches, and she sweeps, and she lights the lamp, and she looks, and she finds.
So, who’s the story really about? The story’s not really about the one who has been lost. The story’s about the one who’s looking, the one who’s searching. This is the story of the shepherd more than the story of the sheep. It’s a story about a shepherd who loves his sheep, a shepherd who set his love on the sheep, a shepherd who attaches the highest value to the sheep, a shepherd who will stop at nothing until he’s found his precious sheep. We’ve seen his anguish when he loses his sheep. We’ve seen his quest where he retrieves his sheep, and he found it. Now, we get to see the shepherd’s joy. This is the point of it. This is where the story is driving us. Jesus is surrounded by these religious people. He’s driving to this point, to the joy. This parable would not exist except for this, the joy that comes when the sheep has been found.
Verse 5, “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” Now, how does that shepherd … He goes out and he finds his sheep. How does he respond? Immediately he rebukes it. “You stupid, ignorant sheep. How dare you. How dare you wander off from me.” No, he doesn’t rebuke it. Immediately he punishes it. “You dumb, disobedient sheep. I’ll teach you to wander.” No. Immediately he’s disgusted by it. “You’re filthy. You’re smelly. What did you get into? You go wash yourself off and then maybe I’ll take you back.” No. Immediately he sells it. “I can’t have a sheep like you polluting my flock. Do you know how you made me look in the eyes of the other people? Do you know what they’re saying about me right now that I lost you?” No. He cares for it.
Immediately he cares for it. He takes that sheep and lifts it onto his shoulders and he goes his way rejoicing. Now, sheep are big and sheep are heavy, but he takes that dirty, smelly, heavy sheep. He throws it over his shoulders and he makes the long walk home, makes the long walk back to the safe, open country. Do you see his love? He does not hold the wandering of that sheep against it. Do you see his care? He doesn’t make that tired and worn out sheep walk all the way home. He carries it. Do you see his tenderness? He gently lifts it up instead of forcing it to walk. Do you see his strength? No one is gonna take that sheep from him now. Do you see his joy? See, his quest has been rewarded. How is it rewarded? With the joy of finding the one that was lost, the one that had wandered, and this is what he wanted.
Why did the shepherd go and search for his sheep? So he could have the joy of finding it. Finally, he returns home. It’s been a long day. He’s tired. He’s just carried a sheep on his shoulders all the way home. But, he’s not done rejoicing yet. Verse 6, “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'” He calls his friends. He calls his neighbors, “Come and have a party. Come and rejoice. My sheep wandered off but I tracked it down. It was lost but it’s been found. This means we need to celebrate.” As the story ends we see the shepherd walking into this party. He’s rejoicing. He’s celebrating with his friends.
Isn’t it interesting, you go to the next, the parable of the lost coin. How does it end? With a party. Next, prodigal son. How does it end? With a party. What’s the point of this parable? What’s the meaning behind it? Good news. God loves to save the lost. It’s God’s joy to seek out and to save those who have wandered. He loves to seek them out, and He loves to rescue them, and He loves to return them to His fold, and He loves to rejoice over them. When He does that all of Heaven rejoices with Him.
Remember, Jesus told this parable, this story, in the context of these very upright, religious people. They had grumbled, they had complained that Jesus was spending all that time with these bad, bad people. See, chances are in a group of this size there’s very good and religious people right here, probably. I’d have to include myself in that. I can be like that. So, let me talk to us for a minute. Think about, especially, the context of the local church. We can really want church and like church to be a safe and easy place. We can really want our church to be, I mean, what’s a good reflection of us, right, a place that’s full of people who are all nicely put together. If you really go plumbing through the depths of your heart, I think you would see that in all of our minds the ultimate church is the one that’s made up of 250 of ourselves, right? Because, we love ourselves so much, and other people are so much harder to love than we are that the ultimate church would just be ourselves duplicated, right?
The less people are like us the harder it is to love them, the harder it is to really embrace them, to reach out for them. That’s especially true, and we’re convinced we’re very well put together. I’ve got it. I’ve got my life together. Then, there’s these people who are coming along who are like that sheep. They wandered and they’re messy, they’re carrying the stink of sin with them. It is God’s grace if your church is messy, right, because God loves to save the lost. God loves to save sinners. God doesn’t save those who are righteous, right? Like a doctor doesn’t heal those who are perfectly well. God saves sinners.
I think in every church there ought to be some mess, there ought to be some just stench of sin, some working out of the ramifications of sin, and a long lifetime of sin. Those people are coming into our church now, and it’s our joy then. It’s our calling then to help them, to reach out to them, to help them overcome the mess they’ve made, all the sin they’ve committed, all the sin that’s been committed against them. What a joy that we could be involved in a ministry like that.
Are you making it your purpose to seek out those who are lost so you can rejoice, so your church community can rejoice, so all of Heaven can rejoice? Do you think about that as you’re sharing the gospel. If this person gets saved all of Heaven rejoices. I can be part of that celebration. I can be used by God to cause that celebration as I share the gospel and call this person to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. If God cares so much for the lost, if Jesus Christ cares so much for the lost, how can we care so little? If one little sheep is that precious to a shepherd, how can one eternal soul mean so little to us? Do you have God’s heart for the lost as it’s displayed in Luke 15? Do you have a deep longing that another, and then another, and then another of His lost sheep, his wandering sheep, would be returned, would be drawn in. Do you have his compassion? Do you welcome them, or welcome them back into your fold, into your flock?
Then, there’s this. Do you have confidence, and I mean a really deep confidence that God is still seeking and saving the lost, that this shepherd is still seeking out and searching for those who have wandered? Are you waiting for your parents, or children, or friends to turn to Christ and be saved. I don’t mean waiting just in a sense of waiting and doing nothing, but do you believe that God truly loves to seek and save the lost? Then, are you acting as if that’s true? Are you confident that God is seeking out, and drawing in those who have wandered far? Do you have confidence then in the character of the shepherd? Do you have confidence in His love? Are you praying then, earnestly praying that those wandering sheep would hear His voice and be found, because He is still searching, still calling, still seeking, still saving His wandering sheep.
How do we talk to those people who have wandered? Maybe especially our prodigals, to grab a metaphor from a little bit farther in the chapter, those who are raised around the Christian faith but never embraced the gospel, or those who were raised in Christian homes and once did profess the faith but have since wandered off, or outright rejected it and now living in disobedience? How can we approach them? First with confidence, not in ourselves, not in our evangelistic technique, not in our own ability to understand what they’re going through and to reason them into the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, confidence in the shepherd, confidence in the Good Shepherd who loves to seek and save the lost. But, also we can talk to them about that happiness, that elusive happiness, always just slipping out of our grasp.
Here we see true joy, the truest kind of joy, which is being found. There’s no joy like that, the joy of being found. How could that joy be theirs as well? Of course, this parable isn’t really about a sheep. It’s not really about a coin. It’s about you, and me, and them. Best of all, it’s about Jesus, right? Each one of us has been that wandering sheep. You know that in your own life. I know that in my own life. Each one of us has wandered. Each one of us is that little coin, little semi-precious coin, that’s fallen to the ground and been lost. Jesus is the shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who loves us and sought us out. He loves to find those who are lost. He loves to rescue them. How do we know this? Because He rescued us.
What more poof do we need that God still loves to seek and save the lost, other than to look in our own lives and look in our own hearts, and consider our own lostness, our own fallenness, to say “I know it was me?” He didn’t shove me out of His reach. He didn’t shove me. I was the one who wandered. He didn’t lose me. I was the one who fell, yet He came for me. He sought me out. He drew me back. When we really understand human depravity, it’s so, so helpful to understand that not one of us has any advantage over anyone else. That’s comforting, because I know I didn’t have a leg up on that person I’m so longing to see saved. There was nothing in me that God latched onto that made me easier to save. There was no little hint of goodness within me that made me just a little bit more worthy than the other person. No. The shepherd sought me out. He saved me. If he can save me, He can save anyone.
When you think about those people in your life who have wandered, can you say that? “Truly if he saved me of course he can save that person.” Remember that crowd around Jesus. He was surrounded by some very good and some bad people, very good people who didn’t think they needed a savior, very bad people who didn’t think they were worthy of a savior. Very bad people may be tempted to say … Speaking to people, you’ll hear them say things like, “I’m not good enough. I can’t come to Jesus. Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know the things that I’ve done? There’s no hope for a person like me. What would Jesus want to do with a person like me?” Jesus says, “I tell you there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Jesus is in the business of saving sinners. There is not one who has wandered too far to be out of the reach of this shepherd. It’s really just admitting your wandering is the first step to being found, isn’t it? It’s a prerequisite for salvation is to know you’re a wanderer. Jesus didn’t come for people who are doing just fine on their own, thank you very much. He came for those who have wandered and are lost and alone, who can’t make their own way back.
Or, more likely that person will say, “I’m not a bad person. I don’t need Jesus. I don’t need anyone to seek me out and find me and rescue me.” Remember, Jesus told this parable in the context of people who were so very good, at least they thought they were so very good. But, they didn’t know how lost they were. They were wandering out in the wilderness. They were lost and alone. They’re edging up against the cliff. There’s wolves, and there’s bears prowling around, and they’re just saying, I’m fine. I’m great. I don’t need help, and this parable, to some degree, was meant to convince them of just how lost they actually were. Don’t you see how lost?
A lot of people are convinced of their goodness, or badness. The Bible says, “All we like …” What? “All we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned, everyone, to his own way.” There’s that sheep metaphor again. It comes up again and again. We are all sheep. We’ve all wandered. Some of us turn away into badness, look for joy in all the bad things we do. Some people turn away into goodness, this external goodness, try to find joy in all the good things they do. In the end we all find the same thing. There’s nothing we can do to fix our problem. There’s nothing we can do to find that true deep lasting joy. We’ve all wandered from that Good Shepherd, from the one who loves us, and cares for us, and promises everlasting joy. We are created by God, in the glory of God, yet we chose to sin. We chose to stray.
The Bible says, “We like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned everyone to his own way,” but it continues, “and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Who is the Him? It’s the shepherd, right? The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Here’s the amazing thing. This shepherd loved his sheep so much that He was willing to die for his sheep. He did die for His sheep. Jesus Christ, the Good and faithful Shepherd, He gave up His life for the sheep, the people He loves. God laid our sin on Him. He paid the penalty for that sin, for all that wandering, for all that lostness, for all that unfaithfulness, that badness, the false attempts at goodness. He was punished so we would not need to be. He rose from the dead in triumph. That’s we call the gospel. That’s what we call the Good News.
As for that lost sheep, he needs to be told that the shepherd is searching, the shepherd is searching, continues to seek and save the lost. The task of proclaiming that truth, telling about the shepherd, explaining that this Good Shepherd is seeking and saving the lost, that falls to you and to me. Good News. God loves, He loves to save the lost. Amen. Let me pray.
Our Father, we thank you for your goodness. We thank you for your kindness. We thank you for your mercy. We thank you that each one of us who is in Christ has been sought out. Each one of us has been saved. We know this is because nothing in us, nothing we did, nothing we offer, simply the shepherd loves to seek out and save, and rescue his sheep. So, we want to express gratitude to you for that, express how undeserved that is, so we receive it as a gift of grace and give you all the glory. We do pray for those we love who have wandered. We pray that we would be able to tell them of the Good Shepherd who continues to seek, continues to save the lost. Amen.