Anyone else coming into Summer already feeling nervous about a Summer job, internship, or next school year? For me, entering into this Summer feels like entering into a new, nerve-wracking season. In transitions like this, even when I’ve processed the past season, I still feel nervous and a little anxious for what’s coming next. Even when I’ve looked back on all the ways God loved me, provided for me, helped me, and showed grace to me in the last season, I step into the new season feeling uncertain. It’s like I forget the very lessons I just learned. I often need to be reminded of God’s character in these moments.
So, today we are going to look at a passage where Jesus shares about God’s character and Kingdom through a parable. A parable is a fictional story that has religious meaning. Parables include details that are realistic and details that have symbolic meaning. Sometimes, there is a “crack”, or something off, in the realism Jesus uses in parables. These “cracks” indicate that there is symbolic meaning behind something seemingly mundane. Today we are going to look at one of Jesus’s parables in Luke chapter 15. We enter into the story as Jesus speaks to a group of tax collectors and Pharisees. Tax collectors were Jewish people who worked for the Roman government and were usually hated by fellow Jews for charging extra on taxes to pocket the difference. Pharisees were the religious scholars and teachers of the time, and were thought of as righteous because of their knowledge of God’s Law.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Questions to Consider
Who is Jesus talking to in this passage?
What are the implications of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep? What could happen to them?
Why does the shepherd leave the rest of the sheep to find the lost one?
How might each of the two groups Jesus is talking to, take this story?
What does this passage teach you about how God sees you?
The tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, and teachers of the law would have been very familiar with the job of a shepherd. They would have understood how shepherds protect their sheep, lead their sheep, and provide food and water for their sheep. They would have known how important it is for shepherds to keep watch to make sure no predators or thieves take any of their sheep. Yet, here is Jesus telling a story of a shepherd that leaves most of his sheep alone and defenseless just to find ONE sheep that wandered off. This is one of those “cracks” I mentioned earlier - Jesus’ story makes no sense! No shepherd would ever do that! So, why does Jesus use this illustration to depict God’s Kingdom?
As much as a shepherd cares for their sheep, which are their livelihood, God cares for his children even more! God’s love for us is wild and passionate. He loves us so much that he would, seemingly, nonsensically leave the 99 just to find one. Then, he rejoices and celebrates that one, singular person. Love and care like that just doesn’t make sense! Yet, that’s the type of love God has for each one of us.
This parable is a depiction of God’s Kingdom and a foreshadow to what Jesus would later accomplish for us on the cross. Jesus lived the life that we couldn’t, died the death we deserve, and rose again after defeating all sin. Because of what Jesus did, not only can we know about God’s radical love for us that’s depicted in Luke 15, we can experience it for ourselves!
So, what about you? Have you experienced God’s love for you lately? Maybe you feel like the tax collectors and sinners in the passage. Maybe you have been saying ‘yes’ to the many temptations in Greek culture and wonder if God could really still love you. Perhaps you feel like the Pharisees in the passage. Like the Pharisees, you have been doing the “right” things and the “religious” things, but you haven’t spent time alone with God to be real with him or hear from him. Perhaps you have been relying on your own pride and righteousness. No matter which group you identify with more, God wants you to know how much he loves you. He invites each of us to experience his radical love for us. I want to invite you to take some space to do this right now.
First, take a few deep breaths. As you breathe, invite the Holy Spirit to be in that space with you.
Express gratitude for anything you have been thankful for lately.
Confess the things that have been keeping you from God recently or have made you feel far from God.
Thank God for the forgiveness he offers through the blood of Jesus.
As you continue to breathe, pray this prayer either in your head or out loud: Abba Father, I belong to you. As you inhale, pray the first half of this prayer. Then, slowly breathe out as you pray the second half. Do this several times, allowing yourself to be still before the Lord.
Pay attention to what you experience as you pray. When you feel ready, ask the Lord if there is anything he wants to tell you today. If there isn’t anything, that’s ok and completely normal. You are in the presence of the Lord as you pray whether you feel like you hear something or not. If you do feel like you hear something from God, how do you feel as he shares this with you?
When you’re ready, close your time with God by thanking him for the space you had with him today.
Do you want to listen to the podcast recording of this devotional? Available now anywhere you get your podcasts! Here is the link to the episode.