Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who are the lost sheep?

1Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:1-7)

My favorite Bible story is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. A close reading of Jesus' parable of the lost sheep sheds light not only on the work he did while he was on earth, but on the mission he calls believers to embrace.
The parable of the lost sheep appears in the opening verses of Luke 15, in the context of the Pharisees and scribes witnessing Jesus spending time among the tax collectors and sinners. In their rush to judge, the Pharisees failed to understand the importance of Jesus' interaction with this group of people. The parable of the lost sheep is a reprimand not only to them, but also to all Christians who may be guilty of a similar rush to judgment.
Some Christians may read this parable and identify themselves with the ninety-nine sheep that never went astray, left in the wilderness while the shepherd sought out the lost sheep. As such, they may grumble and complain that the idea of rejoicing more over a sinner than one who needed no repentance seems a bit backward:
Jesus shared the parable in response to the Pharisees' charges, explaining to them why he spent so much of his time with sinners: to restore them to his flock. On another level, Jesus called out those who supposedly had "no need for repentance." The Pharisees looked down upon sinners, evidently believing themselves to be without sin. The people Christ called lost sheep, the Pharisees regarded as a lost cause.
I believe that it is more palatable to align oneself with the ninety-nine. But the truth of the matter is, unless a person sees himself as a sinner, he can never be saved. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, anyone who recognizes in himself a propensity to sin and the need for a Savior. The ninety-nine sheep in the parable represent those who recognize no need for a Savior, unaware of their sinful condition.
Another way of looking at this parable is as a challenge to those in ministry. What does a pastor do if one of his 100 sheep stray away from the flock? Jesus as the utmost loving and caring shepherd will go out after this lost sheep and bring him back to the fold. Each sheep is important to Jesus the shepherd. I believe that our modern shepherds would rather cut their losses and be happy that they have 99 sheep left, leaving the one stray sheep to remain lost. It challenges us as ministers to go after that lost member of our congregation. Everyone is important and no one should be forgotten and allowed to stay lost.

Peace and love,


"Then Jesus said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". (Luke 9:23)

No comments:

Post a Comment