Part 5: Sheep

I’ve always had a fascination with the return of Christ, and I think so too do many in the church. Although to be fair, it’s easier to pay attention to the timing of His return rather than the more practical concern of what we are to be doing when he returns.

 

Midway through the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable to a guy obsessed with material possessions about a rich man who thinks he has it all but is unaware of his life being finite.  On a given evening, (Luke 12:20) God tells this guy that his time is up and that he can’t take all his possessions with him. It’s clear from the parable that the guy didn’t give thought to eternal things. In the end, he didn’t have any crop, barns and goods and his soul was dead.

 

Directly following this, Jesus tells his followers that they should not worry about food and clothes; “life is more than food and the body more than clothes.” (Luke 12:23). We are more than mere animals.

 

Not to impugn their business model, but have you ever considered that Woolworths (S.A.) caters for those who are very cognizant of food and clothes? Even I shop at Woolworths from time to time, however for some people, having clothes or food items branded from Woolies is an obvious source of pride.

 

Jesus reminds his disciples that the Father takes care of birds and provides beauty for wild grass and lilies, which beauty is not necessarily even seen and noticed by people. God’s care extends to all parts of creation, and if He takes care of them, He will take care of us.

 

Jesus refers to God feeding the ravens (Luke 12:24); basically these birds are part of the same genus as crows. Ravens are typically larger than crows. I don’t like crows and so I’m sure I wouldn’t like a larger-than-average crow-type bird. Mainly because they are scavengers and have a call like a witch with a bad case of laryngitis. And yet God feeds them. They don’t have a system for processing food or storing it and yet as my friend Craig always used to say, you don’t see many skinny birds.

 

Jesus further tells his disciples that giving to the poor secures treasures in heaven and our hearts follow our treasure (Luke 12:34).

 

What I get from this chapter is not to worry about the basics, that God has it covered. I need to be focused on what Jesus tells me is important: working for the Master, knowing that He could return at any moment.

 

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” (Luke 12:35 – 37a). We are to be heavenly minded, not earthly minded.

 

Jesus provides the example of a homeowner who, if he knew when a thief would try break in, would prevent it (Luke 12:39). The way to be on guard against a thief is to live in a constant state of readiness.

 

I’ve always been fascinated with the USAF guys hooked into NORAD, who at a moment’s notice and with properly formatted orders in hand can send missiles aloft toward an enemy. And that’s just dealing with nuclear attack and defence. The return of the Master is a somewhat bigger deal with greater impact than mere nukes.

 

Peter asked Jesus whether this teaching about being ready applied to everyone or only his disciples. Jesus likens the believer to a manager; a steward in charge of whatever God has given him or her. For myself, I have a family, a job, responsibilities, and I need to do the best that I can, being vigilant, knowing that it’s to Him that I will give an account. It’s my heavenly Father’s business, and I’m managing a branch of the franchise (to put it in business terms).

 

What does a good manager look like? Treating those in my area of responsibility well, being of sober and consistent habits, not being worldly. In other words, love, spiritual focus and self control.

 

Further on in Luke, we see the Father’s heart for the lost (chapter 15). This is the reason behind why the Christ had to be born and why he had to go to the cross; this is what it’s all about: the lost.

Naturally, the religious leaders, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were dismissive of Jesus hanging out with sinners and sharing meals. They muttered about it (Luke 15:2). Here we see the heart of the religious class of the day juxtaposed with the heart of the Father. In the parable of the lost sheep, the man who owns the sheep leaves the 99 grazing and goes off to look for the one sheep that is lost. And he doesn’t give up until he finds it, and then he carries it back and rejoices with his friends and neighbours.

 

The heart of the Father for a single lost soul is extraordinary. He notices the lost. It’s merely a parable but I imagine the 99 sheep left in the pasture were in safe hands. Perhaps the angelic equivalent of a Reaper drone equipped with Hellfire missiles for any deluded wolf who tries to mess with the sheep. Regardless, the emphasis is on the lost sheep.

 

This is the Father’s heart, and in 2019 I want it to be my heart too.

 

 

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