Summary: Unfortunately, many people are lost and don’t know it!
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, February 14, 2010
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
"In a Manner of Speaking": The Parable of “The Lost Sheep'
My favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said: “Objects are lost because people look for them where they are not; instead of where they are!” Rather profound, don’t you think? And when you think about it, this applies to people as well as to objects. Unfortunately, many people are lost and don’t know it!
And yet if you were to tell an unbeliever that he was lost, it’s very likely that he would resent it. And he would resent you for having said it! Thus, a golden opportunity for evangelism would be lost for someone who is lost. In our fallen nature people don’t like to be reminded that they are sinners and in need of a Savior. We tend to see ourselves as being just as good as the next person and perhaps even better. Perhaps this is why Jesus often spoke in parables. In fact, a significant portion of the Synoptic gospels are devoted to the parables of Jesus.
Jesus spoke to the multitudes in this manner so that the most profound mysteries of God would be revealed in plain, simple terms by referring to common, every day occurrences; and He did this in such a way so as not to offend those who were earnestly seeking repentance of their sins.
In the Greek, the word “parable” literally meant to put things “side by side.” In other words, one story parallels another underlying story. Thus, there is a message behind the message!
This particular parable (also recorded in Matthew 18:12-14) is the first of three in a trilogy of parables recorded in Luke in which the underlying theme is about God’s saving grace. Notice the sequence: First of all, THE GOOD SHEPHERD KNOWS HIS SHEEP (repeat).
By way of some background information, large crowds were traveling with Jesus listening to what He had to say. Included among them were tax collectors and sinners. Certain Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered amongst themselves saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” [Luke 15:2]. Jesus, knowing the hearts of all men, began speaking to them in a parable whereupon He said: “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and loses one of them ...”
Now, let’s stop right there! Notice that this particular shepherd knew precisely how many sheep were in his flock. But I suspect that each of his sheep was more than just a number. He called them by name. In other words, this particular shepherd, the Good Shepherd, was intimately acquainted with each woolly lamb. He knew their likes and dislikes, their habits and foibles. Apparently, one of His sheep had wandered off, placing himself in danger from the elements and predatory animals. But, as we’re about to discover, this shepherd, the Good Shepherd, prized each and every one of His sheep. Yes, each one was of considerable value to Him.
The writer of Proverbs says: “Know well the condition of your flocks” [Proverbs 27:23]. For not only did this shepherd know the precise number of His sheep, but He obviously was attentive to them, for how else would He have known that one of sheep had strayed away?
In the Bible, God continually compares mankind to that of sheep. And why do you suppose that is? We like to think of ourselves as being independent and self-reliant and that we can fend for ourselves. But the cold, hard reality is that we are susceptible to falling prey to the wiles of the evil one. For whether we realize it or not, we are vulnerable and in need of protection.
It was the summer of 1966 and I was working for one of my dad’s close friends who owned a cabin on Lake McDonald inside of Glacier National Park. One day four of us, all college students, decided to take a day hike starting out from the trail head in East Glacier back towards West Gracier; a trek of some twenty-five miles.
It just so happened that I had been dating a lovely young coed from Illinois Wesleyan. Well, we stopped along the way and had a leisurely lunch soaking in the beautiful panorama of Montana and its majestic beauty. But by late afternoon we were still some distance from Mount Brown and its quick descent down to Lake McDonald.
The other two hikers went on ahead and before we knew it, Charlotte and I found ourselves alone on a narrow, winding trail. The late afternoon sun peeked behind some cloud cover and we found ourselves disoriented on an otherwise well-marked trail. Nightfall found us by a stream of water where we decided to stay put. But a full moon was rising, and I decided that we should backtrack to a cabin we had passed by earlier. It was a seasonal cabin used by the park service, and to our good fortune it was opened and a caretaker put us up for the night.