Jesus’ Life of Love
Jesus Tells the Story of the Lost Sheep: Lesson Two
People everywhere are desperate to experience God’s overwhelming, never-ending love. The popularity of Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love” is evidence of this deep longing. The song was posted to YouTube on January 19, 2018 and six months later the video had been viewed over 36 million times! The song’s refrain reads:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Our heart longs to know of God’s unfailing, unconditional love. Every person’s heart has a raw, gaping hole that can only be healed and filled with the love of God. But even though we long to be loved deep in the core of ourselves, our old Adam nature does not easily accept the love God freely offers. Our minds are not programmed to receive it. And so, like a radio tuned to the wrong frequency, we completely miss the signal.
When Adam sinned and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was as if he turned the dial to the wrong frequency. He cut himself off from a loving Spirit-to-spirit union with God and chose instead to be led by his own mind, will and emotions—by his own soul. In this state of separation, God provided a set of rules to guide the independent soul. Through Moses, He gave the Ten Commandments and other laws to clearly define good and evil according to what was best for humanity. But the law did not come with the strength to obey its own commands. The independent soul, cut off from Spirit-to-spirit relationship with God, simply cannot follow the rules; it wasn’t created to. Adam’s independent, sin nature can never inherit the promises of God.
As part of the human race, we inherit Adam’s nature. We are born with our dial set to the wrong frequency and cannot hear the love of God. Instead we listen to the static of the world and think we must work hard according to our own knowledge of good and evil to try and obey the law in order to earn God’s favor, blessing … and love.
But Jesus made a way for the dial to be reset to the proper channel. The New Covenant that Jesus introduced is not based on law; it is based on love. In the New Covenant our value and worth are based—not on our doing good and avoiding evil—but simply in being loved by God as His children. Amazing as it sounds, He loves us unconditionally and always.
In the verses for this lesson, Jesus introduces us to God’s extravagant love. He tells the story of the lost sheep to help us change our minds so that we begin to see God as He really is—full of unconditional love for us. Like a good shepherd watches over his sheep and seeks out the one who has gone astray, so God cares for us.
Read Luke 15:1–7:
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3Then 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? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I 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.”
- In verse 1, how did the sinners and tax collectors respond to Jesus?
- In verse 2, how did the Pharisees and scribes respond to Jesus?
- Why do you think the two groups responded differently?
- Pretend for a moment that you are a Pharisee. You are highly educated, very religious and greatly respected in society. You think you are better than others because you obey the Ten Commandments. Even though you are never sure you have done enough, you try hard to please God by being obedient. How might this story impact you?
- Now pretend that you are a tax collector. You know that you have not kept the Ten Commandments. The religious norms of society tell you that you are evil and unworthy of God’s care. You feel your sins and disobedience have put you outside of God’s favor and that He will deal harshly with you. How might this story impact you?
- Reread verse 5. Imagine and describe the scene.
- Look at the words “joyfully, “rejoice,” “rejoicing” in verses 5, 6, and 7. What do these words say to you?
- How does Jesus describe the shepherd in this story?
- Describe the image of God you see portrayed in this story. How does God see each individual?
- How does this image compare with your own personal view of God?
- Are you one of the ninety-nine sheep safely in the pen, or are you a wandering sheep? Explain your answer.
- How might accepting that God values you and takes joy in you affect your relationship with Him?
Imagine that you are a little lamb who has wandered away from the flock. Now you are caught in a tangle of brush and night is falling. The Good Shepherd notices that you are missing. He puts the others safely in the pen for the night and sets out to find you. He walks along searching and calling your name into the darkening shadows … (your name) … (your name) … (your name).
When He sees you, His face lights up in a smile. His eyes sparkle with joy over finding you. He kneels on the ground in front of you. Then with gentle, caring hands, He removes you from the brush. He lifts you up in His strong, safe arms and lays you across His shoulders …
Ponder this experience.