A trilogy of parables to shepherds who didn’t care for the sheep

Posted Jun 19, 2017

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Daily Scripture

Ezekiel 34:1-10

1 The Lord’s word came to me: 2 Human one, prophesy against Israel’s shepherds. Prophesy and say to them, The Lord God proclaims to the shepherds: Doom to Israel’s shepherds who tended themselves! Shouldn’t shepherds tend the flock? 3 You drink the milk, you wear the wool, and you slaughter the fat animals, but you don’t tend the flock. 4 You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice. 5 Without a shepherd, my flock was scattered; and when it was scattered, it became food for all the wild animals. 6 My flock strayed on all the mountains and on every high hill throughout all the earth. My flock was scattered, and there was no one to look for them or find them. 7 So now shepherds, hear the Lord’s word! 8 This is what the Lord God says: As surely as I live, without a shepherd, my flock became prey. My flock became food for all the wild animals. My shepherds didn’t seek out my flock. They tended themselves, but they didn’t tend my flock.

9 So, shepherds, hear the Lord’s word! 10 The Lord God proclaims: I’m against the shepherds! I will hold them accountable for my flock, and I will put an end to their tending the flock. The shepherds will no longer tend them, because I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and they will no longer be their food.

Luke 15:1-2

1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Reflection Questions

Ezekiel prophesied during Israel’s exile in Babylon (some 550 years before Christ). Through him, God said Israel’s self-absorbed spiritual leaders had failed, being indifferent to what happened to their people. Jesus found leaders like that opposing him. When he reached out to sinners and outcasts, they grumbled about it, showing that they didn’t care about those people either. He told them a challenging trilogy of parables in Luke 15.

  • What do you think life in God’s Kingdom ought to look like? The Pharisees and legal experts believed God looked down on “those people” who didn’t act just right, so they thought they ought to snub them, too. But Jesus acted as though God deeply loved all people. Did what you learned early in life about God and “church” agree more with the Pharisees, or with Jesus? How comfortable are you with loving today’s “tax collectors and sinners” (including, perhaps, yourself), both inside and outside the church?
  • “[Ezekiel’s] metaphor goes beyond the normal responsibilities of making sure that the sheep are protected and fed. Instead it focuses on the remedial duties, caring for the sick and finding the lost. These equate to the need for kings to bring about justice for alienated and disenfranchised people.” * What are some of the ways you actively support and work for justice for alienated or disenfranchised people around you?


Lord God, thank you for touching my life with your love and care, which reaches all people. Thank you for Jesus, who expanded the borders of your Kingdom beyond all our human imagining. Amen.

* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 190424-190426). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Chris Abel

Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Young Adults Pastor at Resurrection, and he describes himself as a "Pastor/Creative-type/Adventurer." A former atheist turned passionate follower of Christ, he completed his seminary education in Washington, DC. Before coming to Resurrection, Chris was a campus pastor near St. Louis, MO.

"All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
(Luke 15:1-2)

When I was in college I wrote a pretty gnarly e-mail to the president of my Christian University. At the time, I thought I had a pretty noble cause, namely complaining about the required chapel services we had to attend. So I decided to speak up—and let this president know what I thought of it. What I didn’t expect… was that he actually read his e-mail. I got a response. Here is an excerpt. 

“It is regrettable that you cannot find “an authentic experience with God” in a context in which others are leading in a way that you are not.  I believe this will be a good challenge for you throughout your ministry.  I think when I was younger, I felt freer to judge and condemn the authenticity of others.  That painful memory makes me patient with you.  You cannot possibly know, of course, whether I or any of the other leaders or any of the other worship teams are “heart felt” in their leadership.  You obviously feel that you can discern these matters.  
We constantly pray and strive for authenticity in Chapel.  You urged me to look into the authenticity of Chapel, I urge you to search your heart for anger and judgmentalism.  If such poison is there, it and not the Chapel leadership will ruin your worship experience."

Today I read this letter and cringe. But I share it because it’s good advice. He was right. I wrote my first e-mail with a spirit of anger and judgmentalism. But the line that got me was, “It is regrettable that you cannot find ‘an authentic experience with God’ in a context in which others are leading in a way that you are not.”

Because he called my bluff. 

I wasn’t leading at all. I was sitting back and grumbling about the energy that someone else was putting into a worship service. And I was in good company. The Pharisees and “legal experts” in today’s passage grumble, too. They grumble that Jesus is reaching “sinners.” Usually we can read this passage as simply their disdain for the type of people he’s reaching, but part of me wonders if there’s a little jealousy here. After all, he’s doing work that they aren’t doing. He’s reaching new people and these people are experiencing something new and exciting. But these Pharisees can’t see that. They just see a guy doing something they’re not. And they sit back and grumble. They complain. 

And we’ve all been there. We’ve all grumbled at the hard work that someone else poured into their art. We’ve all been reckless with our words. We’ve all sent that e-mail without thinking that someone might actually read it. And as a grumble-holic, I have to say it's ugly when I see it in myself... and it's ugly when I see it in you, church. 

Because grumbling is the easy way out. Want to know what’s hard? 






When you’re working hard on these things, you don’t have time or energy to grumble. Grumbling is just a drain on the God-given abilities and energy you’ve been given. It keeps you from reaching your potential and, too often, it keeps others from reaching theirs. The truth is we’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s a broken world out there and we need all hands on deck. 

Grumbling simply will not do. 

And I learned that lesson the hard way. Today, I’m much less eager to grumble about the efforts of someone else. I’ve simply got better ways to spend that energy. 

And you do too. 

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