Catch up on how things have been since the last time your Impact Group met. Allow anyone new to introduce themselves. Then ask group members to:
Ask for a volunteer to read Luke 15:1-7 to the group, praying a short prayer that – however much they’ve come to know Jesus, they’d get to know him better as a result of your time together.
If you’re not gathered in person, the leader should project the video for the group through sharing their screen. If you’re using Zoom, make sure you have optimized your screen share for video.
Suggested questions to help your discussion
If your group comprises only Christians, you might like to ask this optional question:
The background to Jesus parable lies in Ezekiel 34. Ezekiel uses an image where God’s people are a flock, shepherded by kings, rulers and religious leaders. But rather than caring for the sheep, they have pretty much killed them. Harsh treatment and failure to teach God’s word have cut them off from any knowledge of God’s love. We see that, in Jesus’ time, not much had changed.
In Ezekiel 34, God himself promises to come and shepherd his people (see especially verses 11-14 and verse 16) through means of his chosen king (verses 23-24). Through his parable, Jesus is making an implicit claim to be this figure. It’s a claim he makes even more explicitly when he claims to be the Good Shepherd in John 10.
What should we make of the fact that Jesus says there are ninety-nine righteous people ‘who do not need to repent’ (verse 7)?
Elsewhere, the Bible teaches that none of us are righteous (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:10-12). So Jesus may be alluding here to those who think they don’t need to repent – like the Pharisees. Or he may be alluding to Christians who’ve already come to Jesus in repentance and faith.
Here’s the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon’s take on this verse:
“Suppose [Jesus is referring to] you and me who have long ago repented – who have, in a certain sense, now no need of repentance, because we are justified men and women – we do not give so much joy to the heart of God, for the time being, as a sinner does when he first returns to God…. You understand how that is: there are seven children in a family, and six of them are well; but one dear child is taken seriously ill, and is brought near to the gates of death. It has recovered, its life is spared, and do you wonder that for the time being it gives more joy to the household than all the healthy ones? There is more expressed delight about it a great deal than over all those who have not been ill at all…. There are special circumstances about repentance and conversion which produce joy over a restored wanderer.”
This might be a good time to share prayer points, and to have a few group members lead the rest of you in prayer.
The Bible teaches that, left to ourselves, none of us seeks God (see Romans 3:11). Like a shepherd seeking lost sheep, God comes for us and pursues us. Reflect on your own stories.
(NB: these questions are deliberately phrased that group members should be able to contribute, regardless of whether they are yet following Jesus).
You might like to pray that you have opportunities to share these experiences with those around you. There are more ideas on learning to tell your story at the end of this study.
Jesus is making a huge claim about himself in this parable. There may be some in your Impact Group who are new to this kind of claim.
Confirm the time that you’ll meet next week, and ask someone to close your time together in prayer.
Taking it further – links you might like to share with your Impact Group
New York pastor Jon Tyson has an excellent sermon on this passage (41 minutes), particularly addressing the objection that it’s wrong for Christians to share their faith with others.
The parable of the good shepherd is recorded in the Gospel of Luke. This video (3 minutes) explains why we can trust Luke’s Gospel.
Sam Chan’s ‘How to Share Your Story’ (10 minutes) is brilliant advice on how to share your testimony engagingly.
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