The Lost Sheep

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep."  I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15: 4 - 7 (NIV) 

Jesus loved the lost, people who were “sinners”.   Read all of Luke 15.  The religious people of Jesus’ day were criticizing Jesus for hanging out with the wrong crowd.  He socialized with “sinners”.  In response to their criticism Jesus tells three parables to illustrate God’s heart and love for the lost.  He tells the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.

Too often Christians today act more like the Pharisees of Jesus day than like Jesus.  We isolate ourselves from those who are not Christians.  We avoid non-Christians because they have opinions we don’t like, do things we don’t approve of or are not interested in the things we are interested in.  We avoid spending time with people we are uncomfortable being with or are hard for us to love.

I need to ask myself the question, do I love people in the way Jesus would want me to love people?  Do I view others as “sinners” and yet do not see the sin of pride and selfishness in my own heart?  We need to love as Jesus loved.  We need to acknowledge that we are sinners in desperate need of the grace and mercy of God.

We need to leave the ninety-nine.  Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  (Luke 15: 4 NIV)

God wants Christians to be actively a part of a caring community of believers, the church.  However, God does not want us to cut ourselves off from the outside world.  Our church or Christian community never should become a fortress, cut off from the outside world.  We need to love our neighbors, family members, coworkers and others in our lives that are not a part of our Christian community.  We cannot be like Jesus without spending time with and loving “sinners”.  We need to leave the ninety-nine.

The fact that the sheep was lost enhanced the value of that sheep emotionally for the shepherd.  If you ever observed a parent who has lost a child, you know that they go into action.  Nothing stops them until they find their child.  Finding their child becomes the most important goal in their life.  It becomes their only goal until the child is found.

A couple of summer's ago my heart was captured by a news story on a Saturday - I still remember it today.  A family with four children had gone to Madera Canyon (a short drive south of Tucson) for a picnic.  Their seven year old son had wondered off - everyone thought he was with someone else.  After a frantic search for the boy, the family knew they needed help.  The Sheriff's department was called, soon search and rescue crews and a several army helicopters joined the search.  Several hundred people dropped what they were doing on a Saturday morning to search for this little boy.  Why all the fuss?  Because the stakes were high!  A small child cannot survive in the harsh elements of the Arizona desert in the summer for very long.  This was a life and death situation!

The stakes are even higher when we are talking about lost people.  All around us, every day, people you and I know are in a desperate situation.  They do not know Jesus Christ.  They need to know the love and grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is a matter of eternal life and death.  I need to "leave the ninety-nine" more often and reach out in love to the people around me.  How about you?

The little boy was found the next day after spending a frightening night alone in the desert.  You can imagine the tears, joy and celebration that took place when he was found.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched it on the news.  I could imagine my son being the one who was lost.  Jesus says, "In the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents . . ."

Jesus says more workers are needed.  Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to sent out workers into His harvest field.”  Matthew 9: 35 – 38 (NIV)

It is clear from this passage that the problem is not with the harvest.  God is at work in the lives and hearts of people.  He is drawing people to Himself.  The problem is with the followers of Christ.  The workers are few.  Not enough of us are leaving the ninety-nine.  The solution is obvious, more workers. 

Are you willing to follow the leadership of Jesus Christ and love the people God has put in your life?  If your only or primary contact is with those who are Christians, will you begin to leave the safety of the ninety-nine?  Ask God to send workers into His harvest field.  Ask Him also to send you into His field and ask Him to give you the ability to love the “lost sheep”.

Permission is granted to use this Bible Study outline for personal study and small groups only. 

Study written by Bob Krepps  © 1997 all rights reserved


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