“Jesus, the Shepherd”
March 25, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
The parable of the Lost Sheep is all about repentance. It’s all about Christ for us. It’s for those of us who have trouble consciences, who feel guilt over what we’ve done or haven’t done—not just long ago but even now in our daily lives. When it comes to repentance, we’ve got our own ideas about it, but we need to keep in mind God’s ideas about it. “Repentance is not used in the Holy Scriptures in one and the same sense. In some passages of Holy Scripture it is used and taken to mean a person’s entire conversion…Elsewhere, when repentance and faith in Christ, or repentance and forgiveness of sins, are mentioned as distinct, ‘to repent’ means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them. This knowledge comes from the Law. [This repentance] is not enough for saving conversion to God if faith in Christ is not added.” (SD V.7–9) That faith comes from the Gospel.
Both types of repentance are worked by God completely and fully. We always want to make repentance about us and what we’re doing, or what the person next to us is or isn’t doing. Scripture doesn’t allow this though, and, in tonight’s parable, Jesus helps us see that it’s not that way. Now, when it comes to these two types of repentance in Holy Scripture, the parable of the Lost Sheep has to do with “a person’s entire conversion,” that is, being turned away from their sins to faith and new life in Christ Jesus. When Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep, we can see that repentance doesn’t have anything to do with us, but about Jesus for us. In fact,
REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS.
First of all, we see that REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS,
(I.) And His Rescuing Us.
It’s the Parable of the Lost Sheep not the Parable of the Sheep who wandered back a little bit. It’s a parable about a lost sheep that was carried back not about a sheep who walked beside the shepherd back to the fold. The shepherd rescues the lost sheep. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, rescues each and every lost sheep.
That’s Jesus for you. Jesus rescues His sheep. He goes to find sinners. He only goes after those who have sin and guilt, those who need repentance, those who need to be carried away from sin and death into forgiveness and life. That’s what Jesus does. He binds Himself only to the lost sheep, not the ninety-nine. “Which man of you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” This is exactly what Jesus does. When we’ve wandered off into all sorts of sins: the ones we like doing and keep doing, daily and much (talking behind our neighbor’s back); the ones we don’t like from our past, our baggage (the guilt!); the ones we don’t like but keep doing, daily and much (our doubts about our faith, our looking at our bank accounts more than Jesus). Or whatever other sins and skeletons we’ve got in our closets. Then there’s the sin of working to get back on our own, even in a small way, to turn ourselves, our sorrow and our attempting to do better. But He’s the one who carries us back to His flock, His sheepfold. A sheep completely tangled in a thorn bush can’t struggle to get out without getting cut to pieces, maybe even dying. How will we fair?
Jesus must bring us back. If not Him, then we won’t get back. He looses us from the thorns of our guilt and shame. It looks foolish when the shepherd rescues the sheep. Think about what Jesus says in His parable: “Does [he] not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” “In the desert?” What shepherd does that? Is the desert even a place for sheep? That seems like really bad planning on the part of that Shepherd. When He gets back, He may find that other sheep have wandered off to find a “better” place than where their shepherd leads them. But maybe that’s the point.
Jesus rescuing us also looks foolish. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What God dies for sinners without any promise from them that they’ll do better? Our God, Jesus, does. He bears our burdens. He bears on His shoulders the cross. He bears our guilt and shame, and that’s how He looses the thorns of sin, guilt, and shame. He rescues us who are lost even in our own self righteousness: our checkmarks that we check off before we think we’re back in the Lord’s good graces, and the checkmarks we expect others to check off before they get back into His and our good graces. It meant His death. But He bore it all, like the shepherd from the parable, “When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders.” So Jesus “for the joy set before him endured the cross,” like He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
It seems foolish: God dying and rising for sinners. Water washing away sins and giving the Holy Spirit. Words in a Book, the Words of Forgiveness spoken by simple men. Bread and wine, which are really and truly His body and blood given us to eat and drink. Truly, REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS, and His rescuing us in all these ways.
Second, REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS,
(II.) And Trusting His Word.
Like the “tax collectors and sinners” did. They “were drawing near to Him to listen to Him.” They wanted to hear His Word because they trusted what He had to say. Jesus said things like, “The healthy don’t need a doctor but the sick. I haven’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” What a promise for sinners, for real sinners with real sins with real guilt and real consequences for themselves and others! Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, and what does this calling look like? It looks like a shepherd joyfully carrying a wayward sheep on his shoulders. Those sheep, carried by our Shepherd, listen to and trust His voice.
What of the ninety-nine other sheep, the righteous who have no need for the repentance Jesus describes? They don’t trust Jesus’ words. Instead they ridicule Him and His Word. “The Pharisees and the Scribes were grumbling among themselves and said, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” The Pharisees think something along these lines, “These sinners and tax collectors haven’t done enough to show their sorrow over sin. That sinner better show he’s serious about his Christianity and his repentance. How can this Jesus eat with people who will certainly just wander off again? Who will sin again, who will sin the same way again?” But what does the Shepherd do? He goes out to find the sheep and rejoices. That’s the Word sheep are to trust. That the Shepherd will seek them and carry them to salvation. REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS, and trusting His Word. His Word that says, “I’ve come for sinners. I’m the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. I’m the one who lives again that My sheep will rise from the dead to live with Me.”
Finally, we see that REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS,
(III.) And Rejoicing with Him.
The Pharisees and Scribes were right. Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. He has a party with them. That’s where the Parable ends: “And when the Shepherd came home, He called together His friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with Me because I have found My sheep—the lost one!’” Every time that the shepherd loses a sheep and finds it he throws a lavish party. He doesn’t have any resentment over the sheep wandering off and doing whatever that sheep did while it was lost. So also Jesus. It’s not only Him that rejoices this way, but all of heaven does too! “I tell you, ‘In this same way there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons that have no need for repentance.’” We are called to rejoice whenever a sinner repents, no matter what they’ve done. If Jesus rejoices, if the heavenly Father cracks a smile, if the angels sing and dance over one sinner, we should join the party. How can we not! We’re that sheep daily and much. All of heaven rejoices over us. Let’s join the party for every sinner: even those who’ve sinned against us. After all, Jesus rejoices to carry you back daily and much. Them too!
That’s the parable of the Lost Sheep. It’s all about Jesus’ repentance that He works like a shepherd carrying a sheep back home. This sort of repentance that Jesus talks about is really all about Him and rejoicing with Him, trusting His Word, and being rescued by Him. REPENTANCE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS just like a found sheep is all about the shepherd who finds him.
INI + AMEN.