This blog series (parts 1-4) is the sermon teaching how to share our faith in Jesus Christ easily and naturally. Sermon given by Ryan Stratton on Sunday, September 21, 2014.
The Scripture reference for this sermon is Luke 15:1-7.
We all know the saying, “there is one in every crowd.” Well Jesus says this shepherd knows exactly how many sheep are in the flock. ALL of a sudden, when he was doing roll call and looking over past attendance, the shepherd notices one of the sheep is not there. There’s one in every crowd who always likes to do their own thing and not clue the others in or simply may not want to follow. The sheep stopped coming to prayer group, Sunday School, Bible Study, worship, etc… One just wanted to do it’s own thing!
Can you feel the tension and panic from the shepherd who unconditionally cares for each individual sheep? “One of the sheep under my watch and care has gone missing!”
Did you also catch that 99 stayed behind? Sheep usually do not go off alone. People don’t either unless something may be wrong. Maybe this one sheep felt abandoned. Maybe he saw a shiny object, or a squirrel, and gravitated toward it. Maybe the other sheep did not like him…they wouldn’t let him play in the sheep games. Maybe he did not feel welcome, even if the other sheep were the most welcoming and gracious people. Our imaginations could come up a many ideas why the sheep left the safety of the flock. The point is the sheep is missing!
Without thinking or hesitating, the shepherd goes off and searches for the missing sheep out in the wilderness and among any type of danger, ridicule, etc.. he might encounter.
The shepherd finds the sheep! What does the shepherd do when he finds the sheep?
He tries to convince it to return…no.
He begins to shame the sheep for wandering off…no.
He tells the sheep of the wonderful activities the rest of the flock is doing so he’ll be enticed to come back…no.
The only thing the shepherd is interested in is that the lost, confused, loner sheep has been found. So he bends down and gently picks up the sheep and carries it back on his shoulders ALL THE WAY back to the flock. Without complaining, without saying someone else will come get you, without plotting how the sheep will be blamed for making the shepherd go out of his way. The shepherd took the initiative and rejoiced the whole way back!
When he gets back with the rest of the flock, the shepherd throws a party–not for admiration of himself; but because the sheep is back! He throws the party for the sheep!
Imagine this: in all three of the parables there is an act of repentance. The sheep in this story could not repent of it’s own; but the very act of it allowing the shepherd to pick it up and carry it back to safety is a symbol of repentance because the sheep completely trusts the shepherd to care for it and lead it.
I’m sure sometime while the sheep was out, it thought (if sheep could think this way), “I’m lost and I am getting hungry and thirsty and I am all alone and scared. I don’t know the way back. I need help! Where is my guide? When the shepherd appears the sheep allows him to carry it. In essence, the sheep was saying, “I cannot do this on my own and I know now I should stay with you.”
God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have scattered, so will I seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during the time of cloud and thick darkness….I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12;16a)
God is working in us and through us. He is constantly inviting us to participate in bringing more people into his flock and back into the flock. This is why we witness and share our faith.