Last week we talked about the kingdom of heaven, and how Jesus mentioned that it belongs to the little children. That idea carries over to this week as we start a conversation about value. Just a little bit of zooming out, we’re still in this section of Matthew where Jesus is teaching through parables and stories A LOT. Just when you thought Jesus couldn’t come up with another analogy, he hits you with the “wandering sheep”.
If you’ve heard this before, you know it’s a picture representing how God would leave his flock in order to search out a single lost one. Sheepherding was a well known profession in Jesus’ time, so people probably would have understood this picture well. The text we’re talking about today references this concept that even a single sheep has immense value to the shepherd, enough so that he’d leave a whole flock in search of a single lost sheep.
To start us off today, a question. When have you lost something of great value in your life? I think sometimes we automatically assign a dollar amount when we talk about the word “value”, and while valuable things can also be costly, I’d argue that some of the most valuable things in life are invaluable or unable to be purchased.
Sense of worth/belonging
Trust between people
When have you lost something of great value in your life?
Did you find it again?
What did it feel like to recover this lost thing?
The Parable of the Wandering Sheep
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Last week we discussed the idea that sin is anything that separates us from God. As Jesus talks about the severity of sin, he also talks about the God’s desire for that return to relationship. That sin isn’t an end all be all. It’s not over when we mess up.
Imagine the tension you have been given responsibility to watch over 10 small children and you count the heads over and over 9…. 9… where is the last kid? You would probably frantically search until you found the one who wandered.
This story seems like it comes right out of left field, but Jesus is going somewhere with this. There is a purpose. While this story has a lot of truth, there is also some perspective. It brings questions about value, it gives question about the lengths to find a single sheep, what lengths would you go to find a person.
Feel the intense feelings when someone says to you:
- Could I talk to you for a minute? In PRIVATE?
- There’s something I really need to share with you, it’s been on my heart for awhile and I can’t stop thinking about it until I talk with you.
- I mean, we REALLY need to talk.
The moment when what someone is really saying is:
- I need to...CONFRONT YOU about something...
Have you ever experienced this moment in relationship? How do you handle conflict and confrontation? Do you address it directly or try and avoid it?
Share about a time you had to confront someone.
What did you feel? Did it end well?
Right after Jesus shares this parable he starts to talk about how we are to deal with sin or hurt between one another:
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
We are going to stop here for a minute…
With our American church culture, we so often interact with one another as acquaintances than brothers and sisters. It’s hard to remember the depth to which people lived life in first century Judaism and Christianity. It was much more of an eastern mindset, everything was about family unit and the group; individualization was not valued in the same way as it is in our country and era today.
Think about someone you know in your community that you’re not very close with (an acquaintance). Now imagine them as your sibling, literally someone born of the same parents. Think about the level of care you have toward them in your current context (probably relatively low). Now imagine the level of care you might have toward them if they were your own blood (potentially much higher). We should take a minute and talk about this…
Who are your “brothers & sisters?”
Some of you have had great family experiences, some of you have had terrible ones. I don’t think we can use our own experiences as definitions of what family in Christ is supposed to look like. But a great story of the early church and how they operated can be found in Acts:
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Obviously their culture is quite a bit different than our culture, but I think there’s a lot we can learn from this idea. There’s a lot we can build into our culture that would be really beneficial.
Think about what it would look like if:
People sell belongings/cars/houses and then give money to people who have need
Sharing everything we have with people
People being in the hospital/bedridden/unable to do things and having people bring food/necessities
This is not natural for me. What’s natural for me is to pay my bills, take care of my family, make sure I have enough money to buy pizza each week. Family in Jesus is a beautiful picture of sacrifice and caring for one another, this picture of trust and service that can seem pretty foreign to us as Americans. Within this “family” context, what happens when someone sins against you? Creates division, separation?
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This seems pretty intense, like we’re supposed to treat people as outsiders if they hurt us.
What is meant by “treat them as pagan and tax collectors?”
Pause again… Let’s take a minute to recall what we know about Jesus. What is his character? How has he responded to these people? How has Jesus interacted with “pagans and tax collectors” so far in our text?
Matthew 18:15-17 The Message (MSG)
15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
What kinds of people did Jesus call to be his disciples?
Treating as pagans/tax collectors ≠ excommunication or casting out.
The goals of reconciliation is not to get what you deserve. The story of the sheep is not unrelated to the dispute between believers. Sheep are herd animals, they feel best when they are all together doing the same thing. When one eats they all eat, when one rests they all rest. They stick together at all costs. So...Why would one sheep wander off from the rest of the sheep? Pretty much one reason, “ greener grass” better food. They risk life and limb doing so, because their safety is in the herd.
The shepherd knows this, so the shepherd knows that it is just a matter of time before that lost sheep winds up dead. So, knowing the herd is good for a brief time (safety in numbers), the shepherd goes out looking for the one that separated itself for something it thought was better.
When a brother or sister “hurts you” by their actions they are basically wandering off to what they consider is ‘greener pasture’. At the moment, it seems better to them, and so they did it. With that act, like the sheep, they separate themselves from the fellowship (herd/flock). Our role is to go round them up. To reconcile them, to bring them back to the flock. As with Sheep, it sometimes take more than one shepherd to move the sheep in the direction of the flock, it can take several to steer the sheep in the right direction. God’s longing is for us to be brought back like the sheep. The call is for us to also be agents of reconciliation. The gospel message carries hope. Hope of reconciliation, of making things right.
Where do you need reconciliation?
What is your part to play?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Colossians 3:12-14
What is reconciliation between people supposed to look like?
How often do you experience “Minnesota Nice”? Why do Minnesotans struggle with confrontation?
What is the significance of “if your brother or sister sins?”
Even if someone doesn’t admit their hurt against you, how many times should you forgive them?
What does forgiveness look like in the midst of extreme hurt?