Summary: The parable not only applies to those who have never met Christ, it also applies to those Christians who have lost their way in the busyness of their lives - vicars and pastors included!!
Luke 15:1-10 Parable of the Lost Sheep
Story: A young man who had been raised as an atheist –was training to be an Olympic diver.
The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend.
The young diver never really paid much attention to what his friend said about Jesus.
One night the diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended.
The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by.
The young man climbed up to the highest diving board, and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall.
It was the shadow of his body in the shape of a cross.
It was as if God was reaching out to him.
And so instead of diving, he knelt down and asked Jesus to come into his life.
As the young man stood up, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.
The pool had been drained for repairs!!!.
(The Shadow of the Cross. From the Internet. Author Unknown.)
At first blush the parable of our Gospel this morning - The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:1-7) reminds us that Jesus is actively looking for those who are lost.
It is never too late and Jesus gives up on no one.
I don’t know if it struck you – but it did me – the expression: there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
It is a bit strange isn’t it – that God seems more interested in those who turn to him than those who “do not need to repent”.
But is it strange?.
Let’s look at the stories in context
The Pharisees thought that through their own righteousness they could please God.
Yet Isaiah puts his finger on the matter when he says:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; (Is 64:6)
In other words, in God’s sight, no one is righteous enough!!
So what Jesus is saying is – don’t delude yourselves – you all need to repent!
Story: In the 18th Century, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington invited the Duchess of Buckingham to come and here George Whitfield preach.
The Duchess wrote to the Countess of Huntington about the Gospel that Whitefield and his fellow “Methodists” preached as follows:
“ It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.
This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.” (George Whitefield and the Great Awakening – John Pollock p.95).
That letter sums up the Duchess’ attitude was about herself – and indeed tells us a lot about her.
Even one of her easygoing contemporaries found her obnoxious. Indeed her pride closed her ears to the Gospel.
For it is ONLY when we realise that we are “sinful as those common wretches” that we can be open to the Gospel.
But this morning I would like to peel off another layer to this parable.
Because I believe it also talks to lost Christians.
As I was preparing this talk, I sensed that God wants to speak this morning to those who feel they have lost their way a bit in the Christian life
You might feel that your love for the Lord has grown cold
And so I’d like to remind you that Jesus is looking for you too today.
The Bible speaks of followers of Jesus being his sheep.
Malcolm Britton (one of our Readers) has a wonderful definition of sheep. He says: “From the day they are born, assuming they are born alive, they are looking for ingenious ways to commit suicide”.
In other words, they are not the brightest of animals
When Jesus told the story of the Lost Sheep, his allegory would not have been missed, as the Jews were steeped in Old Testament Scripture.
They would have instantly recognised God as the shepherd.
And, of course Jesus himself went on later to describe himself as the Good Shepherd.
In Jn 10:11 he said 11"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
But Jesus’ listeners would have recognised a further aspect in the parable
That of God’s own people being God’s sheep.
We can for example see similarities between Jesus’ parable of “the Lost Sheep” and two verses in Ezekiel 34 which say this:
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.