We Need a Shepherd Prodigal God Week 2. Luke 15:1-7. Matt Reynolds. September 20, 2015 SPUMC

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1 We Need a Shepherd Prodigal God Week 2 Luke 15:1-7 Matt Reynolds September 20, 2015 SPUMC Last week we began this new series called The Prodigal God. We are using some resources from Pastor Tim Keller to take a look at the parables Jesus shares in Luke 15, in particular the famous parable that has often been called the parable of the prodigal son. Last week what I tried to demonstrate for you was that these parables from Jesus in Luke 15 these are parables for ALL of us. Sometimes we think because they are about lost things a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son that they are about some other lost people out there. But Jesus we saw from the context in verses 1-3 that Jesus not only was speaking to the sinners and wayward folks what prompted him to tell these stories in the first place was the muttering of the religious people the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Today I want to hone in on the first parable Jesus tells in Luke 15. This first parable sets up some themes that will show up again in the story of the father and sons, the long major parable at the end, but I really want to think about what Jesus is teaching in this parable of the lost sheep. 1

2 [READ LUKE 15:1-7] Let s think about some the different imagery in this parable. Jesus chooses to start his response to the muttering Pharisees with a story about sheep. This is not the only place in the Bible where we as human beings are referred to as sheep. Now initially when you and I hear this kind of metaphor that we are sheep and Jesus is the shepherd, we feel fluffy and nice and warm. This is a cozy kind of image. But here s the thing, when the Bible calls us sheep and Jesus the shepherd it is a very thoughtful insult! This is not a cute little compliment. If we really understand what is being said here it is really not a great indictment to be labeled a sheep. Tim Keller shares about some of the experience of a real life shepherd, who spent his life caring for sheep, and then later became a pastor. Offering a unique perspective, that shepherd turned pastor says this. He says, A sheep is a stupid animal. It loses its direction constantly in a way that a cat or dog never does. And even when you find the lost sheep it goes to and fro and will not follow you home. So when you find it, you must seize it, throw it down, tie it, throw it over your shoulders and carry it home. That s the only way to find a lost sheep. Look, I will be the first to admit that I am no sheep expert. But everything I read says that sheep are utterly dependent on a provider. They may not be as 2

3 stupid as some people suggest, they just can t do anything other than rely on being in their herd. They are really a defenseless creature. So why did Jesus choose to relate people to sheep and not wolves, or cheetahs or something cool like a cougar? He could have even labeled us something more independent like dog. There are incredible stories about dogs who are lost, but use an incredible instinct of direction to find their way home. No, Jesus doesn t compare people to dogs. He says we are like sheep. I think the Bible is trying to tell us something about ourselves. Like sheep we need to be rescued. We ve got no hope of saving ourselves. I have heard stories of the sheep that graze in open countryside in Europe or Middle Eastern areas where the terrain is treacherous. And when sheep see grass, they go for, no matter how steep or dangerous the spot may be. They see some fresh grass next to a cliff and they just see lunch. So often in these situations they either have to be rescued or fall to their death. They are not aware of the destruction they face. They are oblivious to how much in need and how dependent on a shepherd they really are. Well friends, that s us. As humans we have no idea how close to destruction we really are. We just go for the next thing that looks appetizing, not realizing the danger lurking over the edge. 3

4 In the Christian tradition we have this practice called communion. This mysterious symbol and experience is a tangible way for us to acknowledge that our soul is feeding on something. That our souls, the very deepest parts of us, need nourishment. Communion is supposed to be a reminder that our true sustenance comes from God alone. The problem is that we are sheep. We just see some grass that we think will fill us up and we go for it. Maybe you focus in on dating someone and think that is going to feed your soul and so you rest your hearts deepest hopes on that person. You feel like, I know I am someone because this person loves me. But when you break up, you re like the sheep who is gone to feed in a spot where if the grass runs out, you plunge to destruction. So #1, I think Jesus choosing sheep as a metaphor for people teaches us something about how we need to be rescued, and without a shepherd we ve got no hope. Second, I think this comparison to sheep also teaches us how thoroughly we need to be rescued. A sheep can contribute nothing to its salvation. It s not a dog or something that will follow you home once you get it in the right direction. It s not a 4

5 cooperative effort. The shepherd has to do everything. He has to be the one to carry it the whole way. This means you and me are utterly sinful and can t do anything to save ourselves. It s not enough to have Jesus just be a good teacher, and we try to live like his example. You think you re a dog or a cat. But you re not, you are a sheep. You think you ve done enough. No we need a savior who has done everything who lives the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died. Everyone is lost in sin. And until you get this truth you won t truly get the heart of the Christian message. For 200 years in western culture this idea about sin has been repugnant. Since the enlightenment, no one likes to accept the idea that humans are fundamentally flawed by sin. But here s the great irony. After two world wars, global terrorism, and a world of constant turmoil everyone knows that the enlightenment is wrong. The human capacity for wrong is tremendous. This comparison that Jesus makes to sheep teaches us that we are sinners and need saved by shear grace. We don t help find our way home. We need a shepherd to carry us the whole way. 5

6 Now if Jesus compares us to sheep and that teaches us something about ourselves, let s think about the other side of the coin Jesus as the shepherd. Because that is what Jesus is suggesting. Remember he is the one who is being accused of hanging out with the wrong kind of people. And he responds with this story to explain himself. So Jesus is comparing himself to the shepherd in this story. When Jesus Christ says I am the shepherd he is making an astounding claim. Because shepherds control the sheep. Sheep are absolutely dependent on the shepherd for every part of their lives. When he says I am the shepherd that is an invitation to give your life to Jesus, completely. Now you and I don t like to surrender control like that, but here is why you should do it On Passover, Israelites commemorate when God led them out of Egypt and by taking shelter under the blood of the lamb, the spirit of death passed over them. They marked the doors with lamb s blood and ate the lamb as part of their meal. So every year, still to this day, they celebrate that, with bread and wine and lamb. The night before Jesus Christ died. He had the Passover meal with his disciples. But it was the weirdest Passover anyone had ever scene. There was bread and wine but no mention of lamb on the table. Why? Because the real lamb was at the table. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the 6

7 world. That s what John the Baptist calls him at his baptism. All the sacrificial lambs before him, pointed to Jesus, the one true lamb who would die once and for all. Even though, you and I don t like to give up control, here is why you trust Jesus. Because Jesus is the only one who can say, I am the one shepherd who actually became a sheep, became a lamb myself in order to save you. That s how I brought you home. One last thing I want you to catch from this parable. And it s the part at the end. Look at verse 6 again and what happens after the lost sheep has been found by the shepherd. Jesus says, Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. In these final verses we learn something about the heart of God and something about what ought to be the passion of our hearts as well. And these themes that Jesus introduces in the sheep parable we will see carry on with the parable of the lost sons as well. 7

8 Jesus says, when a lost sheep is found, God throws a party. Nothing brings God more joy than when one of his sheep, that he loves, gives up control and lets the shepherd rescue them. Now God never forces himself on anyone. He never makes any sheep come home. But the shepherd has come to rescue every sheep. And every person has the choice one whether or not to surrender to the Great Shepherd. Do you want to be saved? Do you understand how badly you need to be rescued? And if you want to know what brings God joy, it is when any sheep, by yielding to the shepherd, finds its way home to him. God s desire is to love and care for every person. We are his prized possession. But we have the choice on whether to try our own direction, find our own place to graze, look for our own things to try to feed our souls OR follow the direction of the one shepherd who can save us. God s heart longs to bring all his sheep home. Not only does this parable teach us something about God s heart for all people, that all should come to know him. This teaches us something about what the longing of our hearts should be as Christians too. Jesus is saying directly in the face of the religious folks, If you knew the real heart of God, you wouldn t be mad at the people I am hanging out with, instead you would throw a party when one person finds their way home to God. This junk about some people not being 8

9 good enough, or not religious enough for God, that s rubbish. None of us are good enough for God. We all need a savior! So I think Jesus is saying, If you want to have the heart of God then your heart needs to ache for lost people too! You me we are sheep. And we desperately need a shepherd. We don t contribute to our being saved. The shepherd has to carry us the whole way. Will you yield to the shepherd? And will your heart rejoice over the same things that makes God s heart rejoice? Will your heart ache for lost people in your family, in your neighborhood, in this community? that all may find the one true Shepherd the only one that can lead them home Let s pray. 9

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