The Good Shepherd
Jesus seeks to correct the understanding of the Scribes and Pharisees regarding God’s heart toward sinners and about his own ministry to the lost.
We are All Lost Sheep
-Isaiah 53.6; Romans 3.10-12
God Seeks Lost Sheep
-God sent Jesus Christ to save sinners. 1 Peter 2.24-25
God Leads Sinners to Repentance
-God and the angels rejoice over one repentant sinner
The Good and Condemned Shepherds Ezekiel 34
-Prophecy of the leaders of Israel. Ezekiel 34.1-10
-God will seek His sheep, rescue them, and keep them.
Ezekiel 34.10-12; 15-16; Matthew 11.28-30
There is None Righteous
-All must repent. Luke 13.3; Matthew 3.2, 4.17; Acts 17.30-31; 2 Timothy 2.24-26.
-Assumed righteousness in not righteousness before God. Luke 5.30-31; John 9.39-41
Because God seeks to save sinners we should share the Gospel message with confidence.
The Good Shepherd Luke 15.1-7
-A crowd is gathering around Jesus to hear him speak. In the crowd are tax collectors and known sinners. Standing off to one side are the Scribes and Pharisees. They will not mingle with this unclean and unworthy group who deserve nothing more than God’s destruction. These Scribes and Pharisees are grumbling at the actions of Jesus. Jesus is defiling himself by interacting with such an unclean and impure group of people. Not only is he mingling with them but he is even eating with them. This is not how a righteous man should behave.
Jesus knows what the Scribes and Pharisees are thinking and saying. Jesus knows that the Scribes and Pharisees do not know the true heart of God’s love for sinners. Jesus wants the Scribes and Pharisees to understand that God does not want to destroy these tax collectors and sinners but to bring them to repentance and to a relationship with Him. Jesus wants the Scribes and Pharisees to know that God accepts the sinner as soon as the sinner repents and that salvation is a gift from God. And Jesus wants the Scribes and Pharisees to know that God seeks lost sinners and brings them back to Himself. Jesus also wants the crowds to have a true understanding of God and not the wrong and distorted teaching of the Pharisees. So Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees three parables while the crowds listen in. In the last verse of chapter 14, Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”.
-The first parable is about a lost sheep and is addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees. “What man who owned 100 sheep and found out that one was lost would not go out and find the lost sheep?” The obvious answer is that they would certainly go and find their lost sheep. They would search for that sheep and not come back home until they found it. When they did find it they would carry it home and rejoice all that way home because the lost sheep was found alive. When the owner returned home he would call his friends and more rejoicing would take place. There is much fuss and much rejoicing over one lost sheep.
In verse 7 Jesus applies this parable to the understanding of the Scribes and Pharisees with regard to the heart of God toward sinners. “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”. The tax collectors and sinners are the lost sheep who have strayed away from their master. In Isaiah 53.6 we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way.” All of us naturally and ignorantly follow our own way and turn from God’s way, and walk away from God. Romans 3.10-12 confirms the same truth. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Welland is filled with lost sheep which need to be found by God.
The owner of the sheep is God. God seeks for the lost sheep. It is God who sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to live in human flesh, to teach us about the loving and seeking heart of God, and to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin so we could be found by God. As 1 Peter 2.24-25 tell us, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” As the second half of Isaiah 53.6 reads, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.
The owner bringing the lost sheep home is repentance, the realization that we are sinners who have turned away from God, who are now willing to turn to God and ask for forgiveness. So God came seeking us in Christ and found us and led us to repentance so he could forgive us and give us new life by filling us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees that God and the angels in heaven rejoice over repentant sinners.
In telling the Scribes and Pharisees that God was like this owner of the 100 sheep that went out and found his lost sheep, he is also defending to them his behavior of hanging around with tax collectors and sinners, and teaching them, and eating with them. Jesus is fulfilling the purpose of God in seeking and saving what was lost. The Pharisees are not. Jesus is God’s good shepherd while the Pharisees are ignorant of God’s heart and purpose for their life. They are not shepherding God’s people as they should be as leaders in Israel.
-In Ezekiel 34, there is a prophecy against the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves and not the people of Israel. In other words those appointed to lead and care for the people of Israel are instead abusing the people and using the people to feed and fatten themselves. Although there is no direct reference to this well known OT prophecy in this parable the connection would be obvious to the Scribes and Pharisees. Let me read to you some verses from Ezekiel 34.1-10 [Read].
In this parable Jesus is patiently seeking to correct the false understanding of the Scribes and Pharisees. Later in his ministry Jesus severely rebukes these false teachers for their hypocrisy and failure to feed the people of Israel on the truth of God. [Temple as a den of thieves]
In this prophesy God says to the false shepherds of Israel “I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. …I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice’”. (Ezekiel 34.10-12, 15-16)
In this parable Jesus is implying to the Scribes and Pharisees that as a good shepherd he is seeking out the lost sheep of Israel and they are the shepherds under God’s condemnation for not feeding the flock and making themselves fat by taking advantage of the flock.
When Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” he is calling the people to leave the heavy weight of the Law imposed upon them by the Scribes and Pharisees, and to embrace the love and grace of God given in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11.28-30). They are to come to the Good Shepherd and turn from the false shepherds that wrongly burden their lives.
-To finish our study of this parable we need to consider the statement of Jesus in verse 7 where he says, “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”. The Bible clearly states that all persons are in need of repentance. In Luke 13.3 Jesus says, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”. Both John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3.2; 4.17). When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost his call was for the people to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you”. Paul preached, “God commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.30-31). And finally this exhortation to all of us, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the Devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2.24-26).
So in Luke 15, Jesus is not saying that there are ninety-nine who do not need repentance for that is not possible according to the teaching of the Bible. What is Jesus saying then? I believe the ninety-nine in the parable refer to the Scribes and Pharisees who believed that they did not need to repent and who believed they were righteous before God. Jesus was saying that God rejoiced more over these tax collectors and sinners who repented than over the self-righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus used this same approach at other occasions. In Luke 5.30-31 we read, “The Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance’”. Jesus did not mean here that they were righteous but only that they thought they were righteous and did not need to repent. In John 9.39-41 we read, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see’ your guilt remains.” Do you despise hearing that you are a sinner before God because you are a good person? You are a Pharisee at heart and in need of God’s salvation. God seeks sinners and leads them to repentance and gives them righteousness in Jesus Christ. There is no righteousness apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
I want to conclude this morning with an encouragement and an appeal. First the encouragement. I want to encourage you from this parable and other teaching in the Bible that God seeks to save sinners. Even before mankind fell into sin through the sin of Adam, God had a plan in place to seek and to save mankind in Jesus Christ. We have many stories in Scripture of God seeking sinners and bringing them to Himself. God loves sinners and actively seeks to bring them to repentance.
Second the appeal. If God is seeking to bring sinners to repentance than we must make the effort to share the message of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ with those around us who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ. When we speak to someone who is not yet a born-again Christian we have to assume that God is seeking to bring them to repentance and work from that truth. We must share the message of God’s love and salvation with them and look to God to convict them of sin and lead them to repentance and faith. So I appeal to you this morning to work with God this year by sharing the message of the Gospel whenever you can.