Reading: Luke 15: 1-7
Today’s passage begins with Jesus acting in a countercultural way. He is associating and dining with those who would not be welcome at the Pharisees’ tables and who the Pharisees see as outcasts. Who could you bring to the family dinner table or to sit beside you in your pew at church that would make others uneasy or would make them frown or tisk-tisk you?
Instead of arguing with the religious leaders, Jesus tells a story that all there could relate to. Being a shepherd was a very common job. Although it was a job at the bottom of the scale, all would be familiar with this occupation. Each gathered there would understand that all the sheep in the flock were of worth and value. So when one sheep goes missing, of course the shepherd goes and looks for it. Naturally, the shepherd is happy when the sheep is found. Although just a story, probably all there were happy for the shepherd too.
Now that Jesus has all in the audience to this common point of understanding, He adds an analogy. He says that in the same way God rejoices when one lost sinner repents and is returned to the fold. I think the Pharisees would agree with this concept as well. If a fellow Pharisee sinned, God would rejoice when they made the requisite sacrifice, became ceremonially clean again, and returned to the group. Their ‘flock’ is the circle of people who are just like them.
If you walked into church tomorrow with someone who had not attended in a while, the flock would rejoice and say, “Welcome back!” to the lost sheep. While someone returning to church is a good thing, I think Jesus is making another point. Jesus’ understanding of “flock” is much bigger than ours or the Pharisees’. By ‘sinner’ Jesus means all people who sin, not just church members who sin. Jesus’ vision of flock is ALL people. Red and yellow, black and white, sinner and saved, believer and non-believer… all are precious in His sight. Who is outside your circle that you need to bring in?