Passage: Luke 15:1–15:10
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Date: September 11th, 2016; Pentecost 17; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel lesson for this morning Jesus finds himself in the midst of two very different groups.
On the one hand we have the Pharisees and the scribes who are watching every move that Jesus makes.
On the other hand we have the tax collectors and the sinners – these are the outcasts, the undesirables.
The Pharisees and scribes and the sinners and tax collectors. These two groups couldn’t be more different from each other.
Yet, they do have something important in common – they are lost sheep who are in need of a shepherd.
It’s no surprise that we hear that the Pharisees and scribes began to grumble, "This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).
They’ve been looking for evidence to make a case against Jesus, and his association with these people might be something they can use.
After all, if he really is the promised Messiah who is holy, pure, and righteous - why would he be eating with such immoral and corrupt people as these? What a scandal!
Jesus responds with a couple of parables.
The first: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost!’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).
This is a story of a very dedicated Shepherd!
When 1 sheep is lost, He leaves the other 99 and goes after it!
Sheep are vulnerable and don’t last long on their own. They easily get lost. They can eat food that is harmful for them. They are easy prey for predators.
With no sense of direction, they’re not going to find their way back to the Shepherd and flock, so the Shepherd has to go to them.
And note how the story continues: once the Shepherd finds the lost sheep, he carries it home and holds a party to celebrate that the lost sheep is found.
Jesus makes it clear that he isn’t there to save people who don’t think they need salvation.
He’s here to save the lost!
He hasn’t come to die for those who don’t think they need forgiveness, but to redeem those who do.
And when a sinner repents by the grace of God, even the heavenly host rejoices!
In this parable, Jesus is the only righteous one in the crowd.
When he speaks of the “ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7) - the reality is that there are no 99 righteous to be found.
The Pharisees and scribes and the tax collectors and sinners are lost sheep. They have that in common.
But there’s a very important difference.
The Pharisees believe that they’re righteous.
They believe they don’t need a saviour because they are doing just fine, thank you very much!
They’re sheep who don’t believe they need a shepherd to lead them. Their pride and self-righteousness is blinding them from seeing how much danger they are in.
The tax collectors and sinners, on the other hand, recognize clearly how desperately they need a shepherd. They know how desperately they need to be saved.
They’ve lived sinful lives, and they know it.
They need grace and mercy that they don’t deserve - and that’s why they were drawing near to hear the Good Shepherd.
St. Paul said it very well, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ Jesus came into the world to save you.
The Good Shepherd receives you and has gathered you in.
You are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
As you repent and receive God’s forgiveness and life, the whole company of heaven rejoices!
Christ has found you, saved you, and now feeds and tends to you by his Word and Sacraments.
He is our Good Shepherd and nothing can cause us harm when we are under his protection. We are safe and secure no matter what we face in this life
Yet we do need to take care that we not wander away from our Shepherd.
There is evil all around enticing you to wander, to get you lost in the wilderness where you are left as easy prey.
We can wander and get lost like the Pharisee, who says, “I don’t need Jesus, I’m righteous all on my own.”
You are truly lost when you think you are found in your own righteousness.
We can wander and get lost when we allow the things of this world to prevent us from listening to our Shepherd’s voice.
We disconnect ourselves from his Word, his Sacrament, his church.
Sheep that wander away quickly cease to be part of the flock.
If you isolate yourself from the Lord’s means of grace, you are depriving yourself of his forgiveness.
You end up listening to other voices that cannot save you and that leave you lost and confused.
It makes you easy prey for the devil who seeks to devour you like a lion.
There are many ways to be lost in the wilderness because wide is the gate that leads to destruction and narrow is the path to eternal life.
But the Good Shepherd faithfully receives you and has gathered you here to his fold.
He has led you by the still waters of your Baptism where he says to you, “I have called you by name and you are mine. You are not lost, because I have found you.”
He speaks his living Word to you, and by that Word, he continues to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith.
As he ate with tax collectors and sinners, so he invites you to his Holy Supper through which he gives you his true body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and the gift of eternal life.
So we rejoice with the angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven that we are found and have received God’s gift of salvation.
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And he is mine forever.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.