Jump Start # 2625
Luke 15:5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
Our verse today comes from the chapter of things lost. Lost sheep. Lost coin. Lost boys. Three parables, showing the love and grace of God. These parables were the Lord’s answer as to why He received sinners and ate with them.
The section about the lost sheep is where our verse today is found. A man had 100 sheep. For a city guy like me, that seems like a lot of sheep. But I expect for the shepherds of Judea, this was not much. One got lost. We are not told the circumstances why, but he was lost. Cut your loses and move on is how many moderns would think. We tend to throw away things that are still good simply because we no longer want them. But not this shepherd. He felt differently. And, from that we see some great lessons.
First, every single one is important. The shepherd is illustrative of God. And, God doesn’t want to lose any. He’ll chase you and send the hounds of Heaven after you to get you back. He’ll put people in your life to remind you. He’ll do all that He can to get you to come back. God doesn’t give up. In the Lord’s illustration, the shepherd left the 99 and went looking for the one that was lost. I’ve often wondered who kept the 99 from getting lost. Somehow they remained safe.
This shepherd realized that one was missing. He knew that. This sheep didn’t fall through the cracks. He was aware and he went after it. We must be watchful, especially now, that some are not wandering away. We’ve worshipped at home for a long time and some may just like to keep doing that. Some may not have stayed with the livestreaming and video classes. They may have turned the Lord off for the past few months. Wise shepherds are looking. They are seeing where the sheep are. Who is staying with things and who has dropped out—shepherds need to know.
Second, the Lord shows the love and grace of God through the actions of this shepherd. What he did was put the sheep on his shoulders, I expect, around his neck. And, rather than being grumpy and complaining about how far he had to go to find this lost one, he returns rejoicing. The journey was worth it. So many I fear, would want to teach that lamb a lesson. They’d beat it all the way home. They instill guilt, fear and shame in that lamb. But what the Lord’s shepherd did, was to demonstrate love. That little lamb knew that the shepherd loved him. When the shepherd calls, this lamb will likely come and follow. He has a trust for the shepherd. The shepherd was good to him even though he wandered away.
Today’s shepherds would do well to notice this. Putting a dirty lamb around your neck is going to make you smell. It’s heavy. It’s likely scratchy and has bugs. This is not a soft house kitten. This lamb has been in the fields. But what the shepherd did was put aside his personal feelings for the lamb. This shepherd wasn’t too good to get dirty. He wasn’t afraid to smell like the sheep.
Third, the shepherd understood the value of celebration. He returned calling neighbors and friends about the one sheep that was found. That may seem odd to us, but consider a family that can’t find their pet dog. They search the neighborhood, put up fliers, call neighbors to ask if they have seen it. As they are searching for that lost dog, they find it. So excited. So happy. They tell others and most times they have to tell the story where the dog was and how hard it was to find. Lambs were important to the Jewish system. First, they were a source of income for shepherds. Second, they were the means to sacrifice to God. Losing a lamb was a big deal.
When one among us returns, we need to make it a big deal. It’s not a time for lectures or “I told you so,” but rather, hugs, and smiles and rejoicing. The lost as been found. Sometimes a person fears returning, not because it’s the right thing to do, but they fear the reaction they might receive. A church full of elder brothers who are ready to point fingers and eager to pronounce judgment is hard to face. God’s people ought to be the most forgiving and gracious people on earth. And, the main reason is because we have been given grace and forgiveness from God. We know what it’s like to be lost. We know what it’s like to come home. Keep the porch light on and be ready to open the door for those who are wanting to come back to God.
Finally, you’ll notice there is very little emphasis upon the lost sheep. The thrust of the parable is the shepherd who went looking, the shepherd who found, the shepherd who brought back, and the shepherd who rejoiced. Nothing is said about the lamb during the celebration. Nothing is said about the lamb’s reason for leaving. The Lord’s parables are true pictures, so the lamb doesn’t speak to the shepherd. That doesn’t happen in real life and it doesn’t happen in this parable. There are a number of reasons why you and I make a mess of things. There are many reasons why we leave the Lord. But having God find us and bring us back is what is important. We don’t find this lamb running when the shepherd approached. We don’t find the lamb trying to fight and bite the shepherd as it lay across his shoulders. The lamb was coming home and that’s what God wants us to see.
The power of these three parables is that we find ourselves sprinkled all over them. We have been the lost sheep before. We know what it is like to care about one who is missing. We know the urgency of looking for one who is lost and never giving up on him. This parable is our story. We ought to know it well because we have lived it.
God loves you. God wants you with Him. God never gives up on you. Even when you are not where you ought to be, God is looking for you. Powerful stuff. The very things that ought to fill our hearts and encourage us day by day.