A Shepherd Knows His Sheep (Luke 15:1-7; John 10:24-28)
Topic: Luke Passage: Luke 15:1–15:7, John 10:24–10:28
Lost and Found: Savoring So Great a Salvation
A Shepherd Knows His Sheep
Luke 15:1-7, John 10:24-28
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
February 14th, 2016
I. Utterly Helpless
If you haven't done so already, please open your Bibles to Luke 15:1-7. This morning we are returning to a powerful and precious parable of Jesus. It's the parable we looked at in our first lesson, the one we find right here in verses 4-6 of this chapter: the parable of the lost sheep.
Last time we talked about how this parable provides us with not only an amazing picture of an amazing rescue, but also can serve as a kind of launchpad from which we journey the rest of the Bible in order to understand just HOW amazing this rescue really is. And the connecting thread we are following is the metaphor of the shepherd and his sheep, an image used throughout the Bible to describe God's relationship to His people.
So in our first lesson, we learned just how lost lost sheep really are. We talked together about many of the verses and ways in which the Bible describes our desperate, desperate condition before God. If we accept what the Bible teaches us about the utter sinfulness of sin, and the utter lost-ness of our lost condition as sinners before God, then we must accept that we are utterly helpless to find our way to God's pasture.
II. The Passage: "Having a Hundred Sheep " (Luke 15:1-7; John 10:24-28)
But this morning, I want us to think about a different aspect of this parable. Let's read through Luke 15:1-7 again. And as we do, I want you to consider what it reveals about the shepherd's knowledge of the sheep. Luke 15:1...
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him [i.e. Jesus].  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  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.
So think for a minute about how well the shepherd in this parable knows his sheep. He knows them well enough to know that, out of a hundred sheep, one is missing. Even if the shepherd can't reach that conclusion by just looking at the sheep in the field, he knows full well how many sheep he owns; and so when he counts them, he will know one is missing. To be clear, there's nothing special about the number “100”. It simply is used to convey the sense of a large quantity.
Remember the context: the significance of these numbers is connected to the grumbling and accusations of many of the religious leaders. Just as the shepherd was willing to leave the flock that was safe in order to save the lamb who was lost, so too did Jesus spend most of His ministry reaching out to the struggling masses of Israel.
So in the parable, the shepherd's knowledge of his sheep is simply assumed, as it would be in any culture where shepherding was a common vocation. But if we head over to the Gospel of John (turn there: 10:24-28), we find a related discussion with exactly the same participants: Jesus and some of the religious leaders (referred to as “the Jews” in this passage). Listen to this exchange and look for a connecting thread back to Luke 15...
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me,  but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:24-28)
Did you see the connecting thread to what we talked about concerning Luke 15? Earlier in this same chapter Jesus identified himself as the “Good Shepherd”. And this “Good Shepherd” said very clearly in verse 27 that He knows his sheep. He is intimately acquainted with them. He knows the full number of His flock. Now at first, that may seem like a basic Bible fact. God is omniscient, right? He know everything, and sees everything. But this is more than that.
Let me share with you three amazing truths connected to this idea that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep. The first truth we find right there in the verses we read from John 10. In light of the Good Shepherd's rescue, we can say...
1. We Believe in Jesus because We are His Sheep
Did you notice how Jesus expressed this truth to the Jewish leaders in John 10:26-28? Listen again to how He phrased it:
...but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Notice that Jesus did not say, “You are not my sheep because you do not believe.” No, he said “you do not believe because you are not...my sheep”. Verse 27 goes on to expand on this mysterious idea. How can you spot a sheep that belongs to Jesus? They are the ones who believe on Christ for eternal life. They hear His voice, they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life. To be clear, they do not believe to become His sheep. They believe and are saved, rescued, delivered, because they already are His sheep.
Foundational to what Jesus is saying is the idea that no one makes himself or herself a part of Jesus' flock. You simply are or are not. But how does it work then? How does anyone become part of His flock? Well, that's the second truth...
2. We are His sheep because God chose us.
If you look at the next verse in John 10, you will see one aspect of this amazing truth. Where did Jesus' flock come from? John 10:29...
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Jesus made the same point about the Father's work and saving faith in John 6:37:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
But if the Father gave these sheep to Jesus, where did God the Father get them? Paul explains this in several places, including Ephesians 1:3-5. He writes...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will...
If you, at some point in your life, heard the Good Shepherd's voice, and followed Him, then you can be assured that before the foundation of the world, before the universe was created, God chose you and predestined you for that very rescue. This fact is described in the book of Acts. Listen to what were told about this response to the gospel as preached by Paul:
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)
Didn't Revelation tell us the same thing?
Also it [the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,  and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 13:7-8)
Disciple, believer, Christian...did you hear what was said about you? Your name was written down before the universe created in a book of life. Interestingly, it's not called the Good Shepherd's book of life, is it? It's the Lamb's book of life. But you can be sure it is the heavenly registry of God's flock, of those, as we read there, a flock of uncompromising faith.
Jesus encouraged His disciples with this very same truth a little later in Luke's Gospel:
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)
How could God have chosen us even before He made us, or anything for that matter? Well, listen again to one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. But listen to it, along with the verses that comes right after it. Paul wrote:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)
But the foreknowledge mentioned there by Paul is more than just a factual awareness of what is to come. If that was the case, then we could say God “foreknew” every person who would ever exist (which of course is true). But the context points to the fact that “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 has a more special sense. I think it echoes what God said Jeremiah:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
This kind of “foreknow” is much more intimate and relational. It is a loving familiarity, and is always connected to a destiny that God has determined beforehand. So before anything existed, God knew you beforehand and set His love on you. And that love determined your destiny as a part of the flock of Jesus. It was your destiny to be rescued. And that brings us to our third truth. We know from John 10 that...
3. Jesus laid down His life for those God chose.
Jesus said in John 10:14 and 15:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
As Jesus explained in Luke 15, when He ate and drank with sinners, he was that shepherd going after the lost sheep. But if we were to keep reading in Luke's Gospel, we would see that such encounters ultimately take us to the cross. It was on the cross, through His death, that Jesus fully met sinners in their need. It was on the cross that He took our place. It was on the cross that Jesus secured the rescue of every single sheep in His flock. Not one would be left behind.
And just in case Jewish believers had any doubt about who belonged to God's flock, Jesus went on to say this in John 10:16...
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Who are these “other sheep”? Again Revelation reveals the answer. We read in Rev. 5:9, 10...
And they [the twenty-four elders] sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
I think this is what John in his first letter, along with the Apostle Paul, wrote about when they spoke about this ransom Jesus paid for His flock on the cross...
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all [not just Jews, not just men, not just whatever...but for all kinds of people, everywhere...for all], which is the testimony given at the proper time. (I Timothy 2:5-6)
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)(for men and woman, boys and girls, from all over the world)
III. The Breadth of His Grace
So we believe in Jesus because we are His sheep. And we are His sheep because God chose us. And wonderfully, Jesus laid down His life for those God chose...for His sheep!
Do you see what that means? If you belong to Jesus Christ by grace through faith, then God's rescue of you did not begin back in college when you heard the gospel from your roommate, or when you were going through a tough time and a believing family member reached out to you, or when your mom or dad prayed with you as a child, or when you found yourself staring at the bottom of another empty bottle, or when you were challenged by that co-worker about your secular worldview, or when you finally acknowledged the emptiness of your parent's works-based religion, or when picked up that Bible tract of the floor of the empty bus station.
No, God's rescue of you began when He, before the universe even existed, made you part of His flock. The shepherd in Luke 15 did not simply go after any sheep. He wasn't looking for random strays. He went after HIS sheep; the one who was utterly lost, helpless and without hope; the sheep who wandered away from the Shepherd's loving design. And just as the Father laid claim to your life in eternity past, so also Jesus laid down His life to secure your predestined rescue. Let that soak in for a moment.
Last time we talked about how grasping the distance downward, into the filth of our own sin, the distance downward from which were pulled up by God's grace, how grasping that distance should translate to a deeper humility, gratitude, praise, and love. Well I think we see another aspect of that formula this morning. In connection with that distance, God also wants us to consider BREADTH, the breadth of His grace.
A topic like this usually inspires lots of questions. And that's okay. Be in the end, the breadth of God's grace, showered on you, from a point in eternity past, and right through into an eternal future, that grace must inspire awe and worship; it must inspire humility, gratitude, praise, and love...and in proportion to everything we can grasp about the breadth of His grace.
Why did He choose me? Why did He choose you? I don't know. All I know is what God communicated through Paul: For he [God] says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)
So we can either get stuck in the mysteriousness of it all, or we can accept the 'bigness' of it and let it flow out of us in humility, gratitude, praise, and love. And if you aren't sure whether you are part of His flock, then simply ask yourself this question: “Do I, am I ready to, trust in Jesus Christ as my only hope?” If your answer is “yes”, then you've heard His voice. And if you've heard His voice, you are His. Let's give thanks for so great a salvation.
More in Lost & Found: Savoring So Great a Salvation
February 28, 2016A Found-ness Worth Celebrating (Luke 15:1-7, I Corinthians 1:4-9)
February 21, 2016Laid on His Shoulders (Luke 15:1-7; Ephesians 2:4-10)
February 7, 2016Seriously, How Lost Could We Really Be? (Luke 15:1-7; Isaiah 53:6)