Matthew 18:10-14Theme: Shepherding.In this week’s lessons we see God reclaiming the lost. LessonWe concluded yesterday’s lesson with the question, “Why should we focus on angels when it is God who is our Savior?” The parable tells us many important things about God.
1. God cares for us individually. When I see a hundred sheep in a meadow I cannot begin to imagine how a shepherd can distinguish one sheep from another and miss one if it is caught by a predator or wanders off. All sheep look alike to me. But I am told that shepherds do know their sheep. They know them individually and, what is more, their sheep know them and respond to their voices. Jesus was building on this fact when he told the people of his day, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep 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).
One strong proof that God knows his people individually and cares for them individually is that when they were called to faith he called them “by name” (John 10:3). We see this very clearly in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Think of Matthew himself. We are told that Jesus “saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him” (Matt. 9:9). Here was a lost sheep that had been given to Jesus by the Father. Jesus called him by name, and when he did, Matthew recognized his Master’s voice and followed him.
Zacchaeus was another lost sheep. He was a little man who could not see Jesus as he passed by because there was a large crowd of people, so he climbed a tree to see better. “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly” (Luke 19:5-6).
An even more powerful example occurred in Bethany. The brother of Mary and Martha was sick. Word was sent to Jesus. The brother died before Jesus arrived. But Jesus stood before the tomb and cried loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). And he did! Lazarus was another of Jesus’ lost sheep, and he responded by returning from the dead.
Or how about Mary? Mary was weeping in the garden where Jesus had been buried following his crucifixion. He spoke to her, but she supposed him to be the gardener. Then he spoke her name: “Mary.” Immediately she knew him. Her doubts and sorrow fled, faith rose up, and Mary cried, “Rabboni!” which means Teacher (John 20:16).
It is always that way. If you are a believer, it is because God called you individually, and when you heard him call you by name you turned from trusting yourself and trusted him. That is the kind of relationship God has with his people. It is an individual relationship. He knows you, even you. So if he called you by name when you first believed in Jesus, you can be sure that he will exercise that same individual care in keeping you and seeking you if you wander away. You may be one in a hundred hundred, but you are the one he will go to find and bring home.
2. God understands our weaknesses. I have never taken care of sheep or even had anything to do with them, except for seeing them in fields from time to time. But I am told that sheep are stupid creatures, probably the most stupid animals on earth. One way they show their stupidity is by so easily wandering away. They can have a good shepherd who has brought them to the best grazing lands, near an abundant supply of water, but they will still wander off to where the fields are barren and the water undrinkable. Again, by contrast, they are creatures of habit. They will stay in the same spot, grazing on the same land, until every blade of grass and every root is eaten, the fields ruined and themselves impoverished. This has actually ruined land in many sheep-raising areas of the world.
The wonderful thing is that God does not berate us for being stupid. The Bible says, “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). He understands us and is patient with us.
How do you know God cares for you individually? Give examples from Scripture.
What human weaknesses does God understand? What does this mean for you?
ReflectionHas Jesus called you individually to be one of his own?