FrontLine • November/December 2006 10
What man of you. having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:4–7).
The Word of God continually reveals aspects of truth that should encourage and enliven our devotion and dedication. Certainly, aspects of oft taught and well-known parables should revitalize our discipleship.
In Luke 15 Christ teaches about the lost sheep, then the lost silver, and finally the lost son. Let us look a little more closely at the first of these parables, the lost sheep.
Christ pictures a shepherd, probably lying in his precautionary position as the “door” of the sheep. (The necessity of such a position was painfully brought home to the writer when he learned the hard way that if he was to keep his campers inside the cabin, the only sure way was to move his cot across the doorway!) Can you see the shepherd lying there, counting sheep—not to get to sleep but to be certain all were safe?
He realizes he has not one hundred, but only ninety-nine in the fold! Christ says the shepherd now becomes the seeker, leaving the ninety-nine and going after “that which is lost.” As he goes about from one possible place to the next, he thinks he hears something. Hark! Is that weak bleat the cry of my lost sheep?
Further searching and careful listening lead him at last to where his lost sheep is to be found. Verse 5 relates that the shepherd “layeth it on his shoulders,” which tells us that this was a young sheep—a lamb—small and light enough to be borne upon the shepherd’s shoulders.
The shepherd’s tender hands discover something else: instead of smooth waves of lamb’s wool, he feels briars, branches, and bits of various kinds of defilement. We need to remember that being a part of this world (and, still worse, to return to its influence), we cannot escape unscathed from its stains and its stench. Like that sheep, we sometimes require the foot-washing of John 13:10.
I remember an occasion when my toy poodle became stranded in a clump of burdocks. The stickers in his curly fur kept him from escaping—indeed from walking at all—without a “shepherd’s” help. What a task, cutting away those burrs, freeing the poodle to walk again! But when the Good Shepherd, the seeking Shepherd, in concern, compassion, and care, sets us free, we are “free indeed”!
Now the shepherd calls a meeting. It is a gathering for the purpose of celebration and rejoicing. “My sheep, which was lost, I have found!” Is it not fitting for us to rejoice over the redemption of any sinner, as well as the restoration of any who has strayed?
Thank God for the seeking Shepherd! Ought we not to praise Him for His concern in becoming the Son of man in order that we sons of men might become the sons of God? And ought we not to praise Him for His shepherd’s care when He seeks to bring us back from selfishness to service, from foolishness to faithfulness?
May we remember that the lost sheep was one of His flock; as indeed the lost silver in the succeeding parable was one of ten pieces already owned; and that the man we call the “prodigal” was—and never stopped being—a son of his father. God is concerned with our consistent obedience (cf. John 14:15; 15:14). He equates obedience with our love and friendship to Christ.
But in those times—and they do come and will come— when we are “lost” as far as our fruitfulness and faithful service go, we must let the Holy Spirit remind us and reprove us as we need, in order for there to be rejoicing over our repenting.
The Son, the seeking Shepherd, rejoices over a lost sheep (Luke 19:10); the Sovereign, the Father, seeks truly repentant worshippers (John 4:23); and the Spirit, who lives in and never leaves any of God’s true “sheep,” seeks to glorify Christ (John 16:14).
Charles J. Mellring is a retired pastor and freelance writer living in Guy Mills, Pennsylvania.
(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)