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The Parables of Jesus Part 12
Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:3-7 - The Shepherd loves us and there is rejoicing in Heaven when we repent.
““What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”
Matthew 18:12-14 NASB1995
““What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Luke 15:4-7 NASB1995
At first glance, this next parable about the lost sheep, found in both Matthew 18 and Luke 15, seems to start out the same way. A shepherd has one hundred sheep and has lost one of them and leaves the 99 to go after the one. However, there are significant differences in the context in both Gospels and the point that Jesus makes. Let’s look at the version in Matthew first.
Jesus is talking to His disciples at the beginning of chapter 18. They ask Him who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, probably seeking compliments or an appointment as the greatest (they seemed to do this a lot). Jesus responds by calling over a child and telling them a child is the greatest. He then goes on to talk about committing offenses against the innocent like the child and how you should remove the offending part of your body if it causes you to sin. This is obviously an allegory, because literally cutting out your left eye means that your right eye can still see to sin and your sinful mind is intact - transformation for a believer comes from inside. Jesus tells them the Son of Man came to save the lost. He then goes into this parable about the lost sheep.
Here is what Enduring Word commentary has to say about this passage in Matthew 18:
Does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? This story demonstrates the value God places on individuals. Jesus exhorts us to reflect the same care.
This parable is similar, yet different to the parable of the Lost Sheep recorded in Luke 15:3-7. “The evidence suggests that these are two similar parables, both taught by Jesus, but with very different aims.” (D. A. Carson)
Here, Jesus emphasized the love and care we should have for all in the Christian community. “The first temptation is to despise one, because only one; the next is to despise one, because that one is so little; the next, and perhaps the most dangerous, form of the temptation, is to despise one, because that one has gone astray.” (Charles Spurgeon)
The one that is straying: “Oh, how we ought to love sinners, since Jesus loved us, and died for us while we were yet sinners! We must care for drunkards while they still pass round the cup; swearers even while we hear them swear…We must not wait till we see some better thing in them, but feel an intense interest for them as what they are – straying and lost.” (Charles Spurgeon)
If he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep: The shepherd was happy when he found the sheep. He wasn’t angry or bitter over his hard work or lost time. His joy was overflowing.
William Barclay points out that this parable shows us the character of God’s love, being like the care a shepherd gives for a lost sheep.
It is individual love.
It is patient love.
It is seeking love.
It is rejoicing love.
It is protecting love.
As Steve and I have admitted in many of our devotionals, we were sheep who strayed and became lost. I found the Spurgeon commentary above to be interesting, that we who are in the fold must care for the strays and seek them out. The only people who lamented my straying from faith were my late parents, especially my Mom, and I was a terrible brat in my response to them. I never had an old pastor call me up or a friend that I knew at church bewail my experiment in agnosticism (well, maybe there was one, but I ignored her). Steve’s parents didn’t seem to care, even though his Mom was Catholic, and we had too many friends at that time who were also lost sheep who cheered our apostasy. But the Shepherd cared and He came after us!
I’m sharing this image below, which has been popular on some websites lately. I think they want people to buy the print, but I was able to find it in many locations to copy. It is a wonderful allegory of this parable in Matthew, centered on the “little ones”:
Turning to the parable in Luke, we see that Jesus has a different ending to this story. In Luke 15, this is one of three parables about the lost that Jesus tells the Pharisees when they accuse Him of consorting with tax collectors and sinners. The other two parables are about the lost coin that a woman finds and, of course, the splendid parable of the Prodigal Son. Both of those parables were discussed in my series about the parables of Luke.
Jesus rather pointedly says to the Pharisees that when the lost sheep is found, there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over the one sinner who repents than for the 99 who do not need repentance. The Pharisees were certain that they were on the fast-track to heaven, anticipating the praise that would be heaped on them by God for their (self) righteousness and looking down on the sinners who were attracted to the Words of Jesus. Of course they didn’t see themselves in His teaching as the ones truly needing to repent, but only saw Him as a threat to the religious establishment.
Repentance is a taboo subject in many churches these days, a mute companion to the lack of preaching about hell. Too many churches, especially some of the mainstream ones, have adopted the “find yourself and your bliss” school of thought, which is nowhere to be found in the Bible; they are even blessing and promoting sin. I found this marvelous excerpt on repentance on Precept Austin from 19th century Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle:
Repentance is a thorough change of man's natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming. There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride, and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man. Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls "repentance." The man in whom the change is wrought is said to "repent."
The full sermon by Bishop Ryle can be found at this Link; it is worth the time to read it and he talks about the nature of repentance, the necessity of repentance, and the encouragements for repentance. Repentance is an individual action guided by the Holy Spirit. We can’t repent for others, but we can forgive them (see the next devotional). Also, letting the sheep stray because of fear that you might offend someone is not doing anyone any favors and it threatens their eternal salvation just so you can be “cool” with their choices. When I think of our lost years and the fact that death is a constant stalker of humans through accidents and disease, I am so, so humbly grateful that He guided us back to His safe meadows before one or both of us died in our faithlessness.
My next devotional examines the parable of the unmerciful servant, found in Matthew 18:23-35.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Today I am praying back to you the words from one of the greatest hymns ever written, “Amazing Grace”, by John Newton and William Cowper. Lord, You extended Your Grace to two straying sheep and we are forever grateful and penitent:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ'd!
Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promis'd good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, who created the Precept Austin libraries of sermons and commentary can be found Here.