Summary: First in a series about the Parables of Jesus, this sermon three-point expository sermon focuses on the sheep that was lost, loved, and lauded.
PARABLES OF JESUS: THE LOST SHEEP
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 2/2/14
Among the many metaphors used throughout the Bible to describe God’s relationship with people, one of the most common is a Shepherd and his sheep. David first wrote “The Lord is my Shepherd” in Psalm 23 and Jesus often used this imagery, identifying himself as the Good Shepherd. Now, I don’t really know if that’s a compliment. If you ask a classroom of Kindergarteners, “If you could be any animal you want, which animal would you be?” I don’t think any of them would say a sheep. You’ll never see a college sports team with a sheep as their mascot. Can you imagine the Southern Illinois Sheep, Louisiana Lambs or the El Paso Ewes? People will even use the word sheep as an insult, implying that a person is just a follower that doesn’t think for themselves.
Yet, these are the creatures to which Christians are most often compared in the Bible. Perhaps it’s because they naturally flock together; sheep are very social creatures and enjoy living in groups. Or maybe it’s because of how worrisome they can be. A sheet of paper blown by the wind will frighten them. A thunderstorm may throw them into a panic. Or possibly it’s their relationship with their shepherd. Sheep are able to identify human faces and voices, remembering them for years. They won’t follow just anyone, but they will hear and obey the voice of their Shepherd. Or it could be their tendency to wonder that makes them worthy of comparison. This seems to be the primary parallel of the parable of the lost sheep.
One day, Jesus was sitting (probably in a synagogue) preaching God’s word. As usual, a crowd started forming around him. But Jesus not only drew decent folks and respectable citizens; even tax collectors, street walkers, and other notorious sinners were drawn to Jesus like a magnet. As if on cue, the Pharisees start grumbling. How dare he socialize with such sinners, they whined! In response, Jesus told this short story about a little lost lamb:
“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? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 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! (Luke 15:4-7 NLT)
As with all of his parables, Jesus invents this story to illustrate some spiritual truth. Jesus understood the power of a simple story. Stories are capable of building a bridge from one heart to another that truth can then walk across. As we ponder this pint-sized parable, I’d like to point out three parallels that we all share with this little lost lamb. First, the sheep was lost.
• THE SHEEP WAS LOST
Sheep have an instinctive tendency to wander. The sheep nibbles on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass then nibbles on that one. Then another and another. The next thing you know the sheep has nibbled itself far away from the flock. The Bible says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isaiah 53:6 NLT). Something happens the longer a sheep is away from its shepherd. Something Shrek learned firsthand.
Nest Slide: Shrek the Sheep
This is Shrek the sheep. He became famous several years ago when he was finally found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shorn it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just under ten pounds. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece (that’s enough wool to make 20 men’s suits), simply because he was away from his shepherd.
We’re not all that different from Shrek. The longer we are away from our Shepherd and the farther we get from God’s paths, the more weight we’re going to accumulate in life—a weight we don’t have to bear. We aren’t weighed down by wool, but we are burdened with baggage. Haven’t you been known to pick up a few bags?
A suitcase of guilt. A sack of discouragement. You drape a duffel bag of weariness on one shoulder and a satchel of grief on the other. Add on a backpack of doubt, an overnight bag of loneliness, and a trunk full of fear. Then there’s the heaviest baggage of all—sin. You carry a Samsonite suitcase full of hatred, pride, jealousy, anger, selfishness, lust. Pretty soon you’re lugging more luggage than a baggage-claim carrousel. No wonder we’re so tired by the end of the day. Bearing those all those burdens is exhausting.