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“6 parables of Jesus Christ” No. 1 (Luke 15:1-7)
1. We’d like to receive the message of God from the 6 parables told by the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, as the first message, we would like to read the parable of the lost sheep. This parable was a story that everyone at that time could understand easily. Also, for us living in the present time, this story is not difficult to understand. There was a shepherd who had 100 sheep, and one day he took them to open country. After a while, he noticed one of them is missing. This parable gives you a question what you would do in such circumstances. Jesus said, “Doesn’t he 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;’” In this parable, Jesus likens us humans to sheep. It has been a tradition of the Israelites since the Old Testament to liken God’s people to sheep. There are many songs in Psalms that resemble people as sheep, and the famous Psalms 23 is also one of them. Psalms 23 starts like this, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” It is a famous song describing the writer as a sheep and God as his shepherd. Rather than Psalms 23, what we should pay more attention now is on Psalm 119:176. It says,「I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.」(Psalms 119:176 NIV) People at that time were listening to these words of the Psalms at festivals. Therefore, those who heard this parable understood this story very easily.
2. The most important message of this parable is in verse four, in unexpected question.「“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?」(Luke 15:4 NIV) How would you answer this question? If you are a shepherd who has 100 sheep and one of them disappears somewhere, what would you do? The Lord Jesus asks such a question to each of us here. The way Jesus asks this question, it assumes that the instant respond would be something positive like “yes, I would surely do that.” However, are we really able to respond in a positive way like that? Also, Jesus says in verses 5 and 6. “And when he finds it, …he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” This question is also based on the assumption that the reply would be ‘’Yes, I will do that.” However, are we really able to come to a conclusion like that? I don’t know what your reply is in your heart… But I know my answer would be something like this. “No, I don’t think I will go looking for it. Even if the lost sheep comes back, I won’t get overjoyed nor hold a banquet.” In modern Japan, it is extremely rare for people to have a job taking care of sheep, so I would like to change this parable into a modern style. Similar events can be considered in church life. For example, let’s suppose I’m the senior pastor of your church, and imagine one of you murders and that person is put into jail. If something like that happens, will I quit being a pastor so that I can focus on helping this criminal to start a new life? Will I choose to go and visit that person everyday in prison rather than taking care of the rest of the church members? As a result, there will be no pastor in church and the members will split…? No, I will never make that choice. This would be a difficult situation, but I believe we would say something like “It is wrong to neglect many people in order to to rescue one person..” and we most likely not focusing on one person to be rescued. Why is that? It’s probably because we think church is not for one person but we have to consider the whole congregation. However, it seems quite different from the shepherd that Jesus was talking about.
3. I will digress from the main topic a little, but I’d like to share the event that I will never forget when I was in junior high school. It was on our school’s sports day. The reason why I still remember that day is because it was the first day my mother came to see me on field day. I come from a financially weak family, so my mother was always busy working in our house. However, on that day, she somehow managed to come to field day for the first time. Her presence made me really happy. Mothers at school’s sports event are quite interesting. All moms act almost the same. It seems that they are watching the competition that is being held there, but in fact, that’s not what they are watching. What they want to know is how their children are doing, what they are doing, and that’s all what mothers concern about. As if their children are in the spotlight, mothers’ eyes are always on them. It’s almost like they can only see their children, that’s how much mothers care for their children. On that day, I spent the whole day in the eyes of my mother, who was looking only at me. Looking back, I realized that this event gave me confidence that I am loved, or it gave me faith to believe that I am loved. The most important truth for human was given to me on that day. Returning to today’s passage, the shepherd here is thinking only of the lost sheep. In other words, this Shepard puts precious value on the lost sheep. Through the perspective of this shepherd, we can see clearly what Jesus wants to say. God sees each of us in the same way the Shepard sees the lost sheep. In other words, “God sees you as if there is only one in the world. That’s how much He cares for you.”
4. However, there might be some people who are having difficult time letting go of their opinion like, “It is still wrong to put 99 sheep in danger in order to save one lost sheep. We should also think about the inconvenience of the remaining 99 sheep because of the stupidity of this one sheep.” “Even if the lost one dies somewhere, isn’t it self-responsibility? Rather, we should call someone to account for its foolish behavior because it caused this trouble.” I think that such opinions are fair argument. But here, Jesus is talking about something that is more important than fair argument. Being fair or right doesn’t lead people to salvation from the world of sin and destruction. Here, Jesus is talking about the love of God which saves people from death and disconnection from God.
5. Finally, Jesus concludes this parable with these words.「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.」(Luke 15:7 NIV) Jesus said when we become like this lost sheep and come back to God, the joy of God echoes in heaven. Every time I read this famous parable, I’m always amazed by this great love of God, that He watches over each one of us as His precious children. In fact, God pours His love on those who see their need to repent, but also for those who think repentance is unnecessary. I’m amazed how great and deep His love is that He invites all of us into the grace of salvation. God sees each one of us with His great love this week. Let us not forget about this truth and receive the strength that we need for this week.