A. W. Tozer wisely commented: “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of his shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd, that is all.” Today’s reading is often called the “parable of the lost sheep,” but it might be more accurately called the “parable of the seeking shepherd.” As we have learned so far this month, Jesus’ story would have evoked many Old Testament associations for His listeners.
Who were His listeners? Tax collectors and sinners gathered around Him (v. 1). They were the lost sheep who needed to hear this story. The Good Shepherd didn’t view them as “acceptable losses.” He would search until He found them, and all heaven would rejoice! The parable brilliantly showed these social outcasts that every single sheep matters to the Lord.
The Pharisees were also listening, but their hearts were proud and critical (v. 2). They were also lost, but they didn’t recognize their need. Jesus’ comment at the end that they were the “ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” was ironic and sad (v. 7). This parable powerfully showed these self-important leaders the joy of God’s heart when sinners repent, as contrasted with their own rejection and grumbling.
The key theme in this parable is God’s love. We might picture God as a king sitting on his throne waiting to receive petitions, but our Shepherd actively seeks and cares for the lost (v. 4). The lost sheep in this parable does nothing but get lost. It can’t even walk home on its own (v. 5). Jesus told this as the first in a series of three parables—a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son—in which God’s relentlessly faithful and tender love is highlighted.
>> Since all heaven rejoices in the salvation of one sinner, surely we can do the same! Thank God today for your salvation, as well as that of family and friends you know.