Surveying Luke’s Gospel and the fifteenth chapter reminds us of God’s intimate relationship with us. From the earliest moments of human history, God has chosen for Himself a people and compassionately characterized them as sheep of His pasture. And of course, in due course of that history, sheep have been prone to wander and stray away from the fold. Many have strayed so far and for so long that they have been typed as unreachable, deplorable profligates on the fringes of society. Yet, God remains a good shepherd good news to the outcast.
Understanding why God continues a good shepherd good news to the outcast requires a closer look at all those who God shepherds, the sheep of His pasture. Sheep prefer close association within the flock; they are normally submissive and will follow the leader. These are some of the natural traits which God desires to see modeled by His people. The Psalmist declares in Psalm 78:52, ” (God ) led his people out like sheep and guided them like a flock in the wilderness”.
Sheep follow their nature: Sheep will repeatedly do that which comes natural to them. They are naturally stubborn when being forced to go through a straight and narrow way. They tend to follow any way that promises to fulfill or, moreover, satiate their fleshly appetite. Certainly, this must remind us of our own human natures and fleshly desires. The Psalmist rejoins in verse 56, saying, ” But they rebelliously tested the Most High God”.
Sheep are instinctively fearful: Because they are prey animals, sheep are apt to run at the slightest movement or provocation. Their fearful instinct serves to protect them against perceived and real ravages of the unknown, darkness, strange pastures, and quicker and more powerful adversaries. Jesus encourages believers to ” Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” ( Luke 12:32 ).
Sheep seek light and high ground: As hooved animals, it is easier for sheep to walk uphill. They not only see how to better secure their footsteps, they can command a clearer view from which to spot approaching danger. As human beings, we all need the light to keep us from stumbling. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world”. In addition, we need to continue walking in the upward way; remembering that whenever we worship, we are going up.
Sheep do exhibit aggressive behavior: Contrary to popular opinion, sheep are not always the passive creatures we think of in green pastures. They can become quite aggressive as many who have turned their backs on them can attest. Sadly, in the human fold failure to take precaution and turning of back, a person may find themselves butted completely out of the pleasant pastures of life.
Sheep have poor depth perception: Since sheep have poor depth perception, it is said that they can only see six feet in front of themselves at a time. This means that sheep get lost six feet at a time. None of us become instant cast outs, immediately and automatically far removed from God. A little absenteeism in church attendance – six feet. A little shot, a little reefer – six feet.
In context of Luke 15:1-7, let us be reminded that we all are the sheep of God. Psalm 95:7, declares, “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand”. However, there are those who have , for whatever reason, left the fold. The question now is, what is our attitude toward those who are outcasts? In the example of Jesus, we see that He is a good shepherd good news to the outcast.
On the other hand, there are the Pharisees and scribes, they are murmuring and complaining about having to company with tax collectors and sinners. These are the prominent leaders of the community, the church folk. Church folk hold in disdain the idea that “those people” could be welcomed into the church.
Take a look around you in your congregation and you will see church folk, modern Pharisees and scribes who take sidewise gazes at those we consider to not have the right upbringing. Kids who have no home training do not belong in our church. Why attempt to tell the good news to those folk who are consistently making bad news?
Surely, church folk can’t see themselves eating with ill mannered and uncouth street people. They say that they are down on their luck; and we say, I ain’t trying to help nobody who don’t want to work. We see out casts, people who do not go to nobody’s church. And we say, I’m not going to stretch myself trying to give them no good news.
Jesus, however, a good shepherd good news to the outcast, says, I need to find them. In fact, the search for them must be so diligent that I must leave the ninety nine, forsake the fold (their care is abiding in what they have been taught), to find that one which is lost. This can be no cursory search; we cannot give up in our searching, but continue steadfast, until we have found that which is lost.
Through our finding of the lost sheep, we ought find also a changed attitude. There should be no begrudging, I told you so. No chiding, why did you run off like that? But our attitude should be changed to rejoicing!
Church, we need to start learning how to really party! Call all your friends and neighbors, tell your co-workers and business associates, invite your school mates, you boyfriends and girlfriends to celebrate a good shepherd good news to the outcast. Tell them there is a party going on; because I have found somebody who can save anybody