Summary: Will you seek the lost sheep of the House of Jesus?
Today I will be preaching from Matthew 18:11-20 and the first part of the section speaks of one sheep straying from the fold and the Shepherd leaving to go find it. The word leave in the Greek indicates he did not just leave in a leisurely fashion or as being angry. He indicates an intense desire to leave and a willingness to seek everywhere to save that sheep and bring it back to the fold.
We often think of the unsaved or unbelievers as the lost that Jesus came to save, but we know that the lost are given the imagery of a goat. It is when they are saved that they become a sheep. We know Jesus told His disciples that he had sheep in a different fold and indeed many more of the Gentiles went from goats to sheep than lost sheep returned to the fold.
Matt 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. KJV
True, there were many goats as well as wolves in sheep's clothing within the house of Israel and also do we have such in the Church. Yet, many in Israel were seeking God and some had lost hope of seeking God because they found no peace in the rituals and man made rules and regulations of the Pharisees or in the despairing Liberal theology of the Sadducees who had no hope of life after death and had no hope from the God of no miracles who had no ministering angels that they preached to the people. They were kept out of the green pastures and the sheepfold of God by men who refused to enter in themselves.
Some left the fold because they felt their sins could not be forgiven and thus lived lives of despair adding sin unto sin. It was these that the Lord was first sent to save. By virtue of their being Jews the offer for salvation was open to even the goats and the wolves. Praise be to His name some did repent and become true sheep of His fold but many more refused and deceived some of the sheep as well until after the Resurrection. The Shepherd had preached to them on the mountains high and steep and had now traveled through the valley of death and conquered it and Hell. There was now no mountain high enough, no valley low enough or wall impossible to tear down to keep them from being found and returned if they would just hear the Shepherd's voice and accept their rescue.
I am thinking today of a friend that went to college with me and even started a church in a town that I thoroughly believe is overcome by darkness and is a den of demons. Yet something happened and my friend left the fold. He became involved with drugs and immorality. He tried to fake a suicide attempt in jail and failed for it became real and he died. I know the Shepherd sought it and called him, but for whatever reasons he did not heed and while he may not have committed the sin unto death his sin did kill him.
Unfortunately, I was twelve hundred miles away from him. Still, I wonder if I did enough to try to bring him back. Should I have called him until he would no longer answer the phone? Should I have written him even though he may have thrown the letters away? I was in the comfort of my fold and did not leave it to hunt for him in the mountain of his arrogance or the valley of his despair. Oh, how I would have rejoiced if he had returned to fold but I was too busy and allowed the wolves to trap him in the valley and they devoured him and then pushed his ravaged carcass over the edge. I could have at least prayed more for him and I did not. I was more concerned about the righteous sheep that I taught every Sunday than that one lost sheep that would have involved too much time and effort to seek and to rescue.
What about you, fellow pastor and fellow Christian? Are you too wrapped up in the comfort of the fold and the fellowship of the ninety and nine without time or compassion to seek that one who has gone astray? Surely, there are goats in your community who need to be transformed into sheep, but are they too smelly and hard to look at for you to give a damn about their damned souls? Do their tats and piercings offend you or their lives too complicated and messy to tear you away from your praise and worship? Do you only care for your genetic family? We are all one blood and one family. Some are close kin and some are saved while others are distant cousins and damned? Why not care for all the family?