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How Deep The Father's Love For Us

There are few images more familiar to those of us who grew up in evangelical churches than that of Jesus with a lamb around his neck.  From VBS lessons on flannel boards ( Yes, I know this dates me, but for you youngsters, they were the forerunners to the Smartboard) to illustrated children’s Bibles, this sentimental image shaped the imagination of many a young American Christian.  The image is Biblical of course and is taken primarily from the parable in Luke 15 in which Jesus asked his listeners to consider the mindset of a shepherd that had lost one of his sheep.  Would he leave the lost sheep to perish? Never.  Rather said Jesus, “He would leave the ninety-nine and search until he found the one lost sheep and bring him home.”  Now I have no idea whether or not a typical shepherd would in fact leave his ninety nine sheep, exposing them to the dangers of the wild and go after the one.  But Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” and as was his way, he turned the prevailing logic of his day on its head and in his “foolishness” revealed the infinite wisdom of God.   

As was often the case, Jesus told his parables in a context of controversy.  On the occasion of this parable in Luke 15, the Pharisees and Scribes, who were continually offended by his flouting of their traditions were once again standing with arms folded, brows furled, grumbling amongst themselves, this time over Jesus’ choice of company.  This perhaps more than anything else got under their skin for in their minds Jesus had gotten everything backwards.  Those who were at the center of the cultic life of Israel, he ignored or worse, he rebuked.  On the other hand, those on the fringes, ostracized by the elites, he embraced.  From lepers and demoniacs to tax collectors and “sinners,” Jesus defied the social norms of his day; touching them, healing them, and eating with them.   As they stood complaining about his audience of losers, Jesus told them...