This past Sunday I preached the second of three sermons for a series titled He What? …Jesus Hung Out With WHOM? In this series, I am trying to explore why Jesus was hanging out with the “sinners” of his day and what what that has to do with us who follow Jesus today.
So in this sermon, the passage of scripture was Luke 15.1-7. In this text the Pharisees and scribes are upset because Jesus is welcoming and eating with sinners (v. 2). Jesus responds by telling the parable of the lost sheep.
One factor that cannot be overlooked is the economic vitality of the sheep. They are a means of providing both clothing (wool) and food (mutton). So it might seem strange for Jesus to suggest that it is right to leave the ninety-nine in order to pursue the one sheep that gets away. But this is not just any sheep. Jesus describes the sheep as “lost” and that is what makes this sheep worth the risk.
This tells us something about the priority of God. Let me put it this way… Too often in churches it is easy to become focused internally on ourselves rather than “the lost” outside the church. When this happens, the energy is focused on protecting what we love about our church rather than advancing the kingdom of God in our neighborhoods as witnesses of Jesus. But God would rather have us focused on the lost sheep than on the ninety-nine, advancing the kingdom among outsiders rather solely ministering to ourselves.
Jesus understood this and was willing to take the risk. He was willing to have his reputation sullied among the religious to reclaim the lost sheep. Would our churches take such a risk? I know plenty of ministers who have sat in some meeting listening to other church leaders concern themselves more with what a neighboring church might think than what Jesus thinks.
If we are going to let this parable shape our priorities as a church, it seems that we must be willing to risk for the sake of finding the lost sheep. That risk could be a variety of things given the variables of our own local contexts but if we truly are following Jesus, it is a risk we must take.
In my post tomorrow I want to explore the identity of the lost sheep some more and raise a concern I have.