Smelly sheep – Hope 103.2

Smelly sheep

By David ReayMonday 31 Jul 2017LifeWords DevotionalsFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Read Luke 15:1-5

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. (NLT)

We may have seen religious pictures depicting Jesus carrying a cute and cuddly little lamb on his shoulders. We sigh gratefully at such a gentle picture. But let Desmond Tutu give us a different interpretation of this text:

A lamb will hardly stray from its mother. It is the troublesome, obstreperous sheep which will likely go astray, going through a fence, having its wool torn and probably ending up in a ditch of dirty water. It is this dirty, smelly, riotous creature which the good shepherd goes after, leaving the good, well behaved ninety nine sheep in the wilderness.

This makes sense given the context of the story. Jesus was attacked for apparently having very low standards when it came to the company he kept. They were a disreputable lot. Wasn’t Jesus giving God a bad name by associating with such types?

In fact Jesus was displaying the grace of that God. He met and accepted all irrespective of their reputations or failings. Of course we must not forget he called all such people to turn to him and seek to live new lives. But in order to offer that invitation he had to meet them where they were and as they were.

The good shepherd doesn’t demand we clean up our act before he comes looking for us. It is the smelly sheep who end up on his shoulders.

David Reay

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