The ones who’ve wondered off


            Then the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he spoke this parable to them, saying:

            “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15: 1-7.)


             Jesus ate with social outcasts.  This type of behavior was not only unorthodox, it was ‘downright’ shocking.  The religious leaders were absolutely infatuated with ritualistic purity.  They avoided the impure as if they had leprosy.  Middle Eastern Dining consisted of tearing pieces of bread apart and dipping them in to communal bowls.  ‘Double dipping’ was unavoidable.  The Jews believed that if you ate with sinners and ingested their saliva you would become one with them.  Much of the Levitical Law (Old Testament teaching) was focused on proper dietary habits.  Pigs were considered unclean animals because they consumed their own feces.  Anyone who ate bacon for instance would become one with the pig, and they would be unclean and separated from God.  The religious leaders were likening Jesus to someone who was eating with pigs, because they saw sinners as dirty animals.  Jesus reveals to them that God loves every human being unconditionally, and morns for the lost; he doesn’t hate them. 

             Jesus goes on to use the illustration of the Sheppard and his sheep to show God’s relationship with man.  God is the Sheppard and human beings are his sheep.  Just as a Sheppard loves his sheep, so God loves all of his children.  Jesus was speaking to a group of people who were familiar with Sheepherding, which was one of the main industries in the region.  The religious leaders had become so twisted that they valued animals above other human beings.  They’d go after an animal that had wandered in to the wilderness to save it from a predator, but to chase after a human being that had wandered away from God was out of the question; and these were supposed men of God.  Instead of rejoicing with Jesus for all those who were returning to their Father, they attacked Jesus and tried to make him out to be God’s enemy.  They failed to represent God because they themselves were evil.  They were fighting against the working God amongst his people.

             In our society today, we have very little idea of the course of the natural things that surround us.  We’ve never had to dodge a hungry predator, or travel great distances to find food or water.  Most animals survive because they are able to stay in places that protect them from danger.  Birds make their nests in trees, and snakes make burrows for themselves under the ground.  Sheep are animals that have no natural protection; like baby bear cubs who rely on the protection of their mothers, so too, sheep are dependent upon the protection of their Sheppard.  When a baby bear wanders too far away from its mother, it is vulnerable.  The same is true of people, when they wander away from God.  God asks that we come to him because he loves us, not because he needs us to worship Him.  His love is so strong that he sent out his only son to gather his children together, allowing all who have wandered away to return to Him again; to know His love, His protection, and the eternal life that He has provided for all who are willing.

             We must recognize that there are two kinds of human beings, the Lost and the Found.  As Christians it is our ‘labor of love’ to reach out to those who are lost and wandering.  We are charged with the same task as our teacher.  How can we reach out?  We can eat a meal with someone who is not saved, or sit and have a conversation with a person who is in distress; we can plant seeds in the hearts of all of those around us.  We can let others know how warm and peaceful it is inside of God’s arms.  We are not to knock down anyone who has not received Christ, but we are to love them, and let them know that God loves them and wishes to have a relationship with them.  We should rejoice in our hearts when we see others come to Jesus Christ.  Do we have a heart for the Lost that reflects God’s heart?  If we do, then God can use us to go after those who have strayed, and we can lead them out of danger and back to their Father.

             “If you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, I encourage you now to sit down in a quiet place and ask him in to your heart, and in to your life.  Ask him to be the Lord of your life, and turn to Him, and know that in heaven the angels are shouting and rejoicing because you’ve chosen life, love, and a family united under a loving Father.”  God bless all of you.

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