15 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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.”
Jesus parable like the crowd he was speaking to is a story of sharp contrasts. Surrounding the Savior we see polar opposite people, the religious and the riffraff, seemingly so radically different and yet both suffering from the same sickness of sin. It’s the contrast between the crowd of obvious sinners and oblivious ones. It’s a story of separation between the joyful and the jealous, the pouters and the partiers, the grumpy and the glad. Between those who are lost and those who are looking. Between those who are filled with pride and those filled with praise. Between those bound by bitterness and those bearing blessing. Between an attitude of anger and one of awe. Between a disposition of displeasure and those dancing in delight. As Jesus shares the story of the sheep separated from the shepherd, He is showing us what really matters to the Master. He is sharing about God’s love for the lost, because both the religious and the riffraff need Jesus. The only difference between the two is some knew they were sinners and the rest thought they were saints. The religious rarely recognize their need for redemption because their path is blocked by pride. When you see yourself as pious you don’t see your need for Gods good news. So Jesus begins the story of the Lost Sheep by saying , “Suppose one of you..?” Literally He is saying suppose you were a shepherd. As Jesus deals with the devoutly religious, He deals directly with their attitude of assent, and the way they see themselves as superior. In their day being a shepherd was a lowly trade not a looked up to one. Shepherds were second class subordinate citizens not superior and seen as special. That is why its amazing that God’s proclamation of peace, the birth of His Son, was announced by the Angels first to the shepherds and not the superior. Jesus knows what these men think of shepherds, and this is more than a story to get their attention it’s a story that attacks their attitude. Superior people want to be in the spotlight, that’s why today we call them stars, because they set themselves up to be seen. Yet here Jesus says that the star of the show is the smelly shepherd. Jesus elevates the lowly raising them from the level of second class to servant of God. To emphasis this point He says that the star in His next parable is a woman, who these men would have seen as a third class citizen. As we continue looking at the story of the lost sheep Jesus starts by asks them a question about doing something they would never do:“Which of you, being a shepherd…” immediately all of them know the answer, “none of us would do what you’re suggesting because none of us would ever stoop so low as to become shepherds. If we had sheep, we’d hire someone to watch them for us.” Today we want to serve the sheep we just don’t want to smell them. We like the idea of ministry we just don’t like the mess. We are ok with helping as long as some else gets their hands dirty. But its here Jesus throws His first wrench into the works of religion by reminding us that we are saved to serve. Imagine their shock as Jesus not only calls them to shepherd but saddles them with the responsibility of actually looking for the sheep: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them?” Yet however hard this is to hear Jesus is not done dismantling their religious attitudes. While they are still trying to get over the hurdle of herding sheep He tells them about a shepherd who loves sheep. The first wrench of truth that is thrown into the works of religion is that we are not superior we are servants. You will never serve if you see yourself as superior. The second deals with the source of serving, we are to look for the lost out of love, this is not a job it’s a joy. Religion wants to promote people to positions of power, Jesus wants to promote us to positions of piety. Religion looks down from a position of pride instead of looking up from a position of piety. Religion makes life revolve around me instead of the message, so that instead of living passionate lives pursuing God’s plan we live passive ones. Religion elevates us to lead empty lives were evangelism elevates the lost to positions of priority. Jesus came to rescue us from religion and return us to relationship. The result was that not only was the shepherd happy because the sheep was home but there was great rejoicing in heaven. Can you imagine what it must be like when heaven is happy? The chorus of Cherubim the Seraphim singing, the anthem of angels and the smile of the Savior. Why so much joy, because a heart is once again in the hands of the Father. Because what causes the heart of God to sing is a sinner that comes home, home to His healing peace and forgiving favor. Returning to relationship means a life of renewed purpose. There is forgiveness in the fold and wholeness in the herd. Do you realize that the rejoicing of heaven could come through you? Today many have lost their joy because they are no longer looking for the lost. Why do we sacrifice the joy of heaven for the junk of this world? Why do we live self-serving lives when we could be living significant lives? How many more selfish moments will I spend on me when I could be searching for the missing? Are you loving self or seeking the lost? Engaging in evangelism means evicting self so we can seek the lost. Compassion leaves the comfortable to comfort those in chaos. Today what are you willing to leave to reach the lost? Looking for the lost sometimes means letting go of much, the shepherd had to leave the 99 to look for the 1. There is always a cost to caring but the reward of rejoicing will always be worth it. What if we really engaged in eternity and stopped wasting time on the temporary? Are you experiencing the joy of heaven in your heart or have you lost your love for the lost?