The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 225)

The Parable of Lost the Sheep


“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).

Luke 15 contains some of the most profound Biblical teaching concerning the nature of the Christian Gospel and what salvation is about. It also shows the true pastoral concern, affection and love of the Lord Jesus Christ for sinners.

The story of the lost sheep emphasises the pathetic and tragic nature of what it is to be lost. It is a picture of the waywardness and the weakness of the human heart. A lost sheep bleating away in distress is a most pitiful sight. It is conscious that something is wrong, but it does not know the danger and the seriousness of its position. It does not know where it is, it cannot find its way back, and it cannot get itself out of the dire situation. That is what it means to be a sinner. It is a picture of total lostness.

This story presents us with three scenes. (1) The period when the shepherd discovers his loss and searches “until He finds it...” (Verse 4). (2) Then, He does find it (Verse 5). (3) Lastly, the rejoicing when He comes home with the sheep (Verse 6). Let us examine each of them in turn to gain some understanding of the true Gospel message.

The Period of the Search
On discovering that one of his own sheep is missing, the shepherd decides to set out and search for it as the sheep belongs to him and is valuable to him.

Let’s examine the sheep for a moment. There is an element of blind stupidity in the sheep. It never intends to get lost. It is just simply following its cravings for immediate gratification, to eat and enjoy the grass that seems to be greener and more attractive, away from the shepherd and the rest of the flock. And before long, the sheep discovers that it is alone, maybe caught in some undergrowth, with darkness coming on. The panic begins to set in, and the more it thrashes around, the more it becomes entangled and enmeshed in the undergrowth.

In using this story, our Lord Jesus is showing us how it is that men and women get lost. “All we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6). The Bible likens us all to sheep, and it speaks about our nature being so much like theirs in the matter of being lost. The propensity of sinful human nature to act like sheep is there – simply to live for the things which are fleeting and impermanent, just for immediate pleasure and gratification.

Let’s now look at the shepherd. He has lost one of his own sheep and so he goes seeking for it. The sheep is known to him and he is filled with concern and pity for it. The fact that he possessed 99 which were not lost cannot cancel out the love that he has for the lost one. So, he goes looking for his own which is lost and he will go out into the night seeking and searching for it.

In John 13 we have the wonderful picture in the Upper Room where John tells us concerning the Lord Jesus, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). How did He show that love to them? He came into the world to die for His people because they were His from eternity. They had been given to Him by His Father before even the world began. The glory of the Christian Gospel is that Christ Jesus knows from eternity those that are His, and He comes looking for them in order to save them.

How often do people say after a sermon, “He was speaking just to me…” When the Word of God is preached, then the Lord sends the arrow home to the hearts of the ones it is meant for. So, in the preaching of the Word of God, the Good Shepherd is looking definitely for the one who is lost with the message of mercy and salvation.

As the Lord tells us this story, He is also saying to us how precious He considers those who are lost. In the story, the shepherd does not send a hireling or someone else to try and find the lost sheep. It is the shepherd himself who goes. If ever any soul is saved and brought from sin to grace, it is not because of some preacher, pastor, minister, evangelist or Christian. It is because the Saviour Himself went looking. He is the One who seeks and pursues until He finds.

You will notice that He tells us that the shepherd goes on seeking “until He finds it.” He doesn’t give up and he is never defeated in his search. Likewise, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to find and save lost sinners! His eye is like that of the eagle which watches and scans, listens and waits, and then pursues and never gives up until the sinner comes to Him in repentance.

Those of us who are believers seeking to win others to Christ need to take our Lord as an example. If you are seeking the salvation of any, then keep on witnessing and praying over them and do not give up. Don’t be put off teaching and instructing them, and warning and witnessing to them. Don’t lose hope and never give up. Whether it is rough or smooth, hard or easy, do not give up witnessing and praying, and seeking their salvation, until you find. It may be that some of us will only find them in heaven, and they arrive there after us. That then, is the period of the search.

The Glorious Find
What happens when the shepherd finds the lost sheep? Verse 5 says, “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” When the seeking has ended, then the saving begins. He takes a firm hold upon the poor sheep which, by this time is exhausted, and yet may still have strength enough to struggle. Some sheep, like people, never come without a struggle. In their panic, they resist every effort to help them. However, the shepherd makes sure that he lays hold of it, and grips it tight with such firmness that it cannot escape.

That is what our Lord Jesus Christ does for His own lost sheep when they are at an end of themselves – weary, worn and sad. When they are at their wit’s end and spent with the sinfulness of life, He comes to them, takes a grip of them, and never lets go. He secures them firmly and fully. He did that for me nearly 53 years ago and He has held me ever since. When His hand laid hold of me, it put an end to all my wanderings and fears.

The shepherd not only takes hold of the sheep, but he lifts it up onto his shoulders, and with its weight upon him, carries it home. This is what Christ does for weary sinners. He carries the weight of our sins and, takes us just as we are. As lost, helpless, frightened, wayward sheep, who are spent and weary, bruised and frightened, He carries us home. He doesn’t drive us home, but carries us in love and with the most tender care.

Was all this done with anger in the shepherd's heart? Nothing of the sort! It was with rejoicing! He doesn’t think of all the weariness, tiredness and cost to Him as a result of the waywardness and foolishness of the sheep. He lays it on His shoulders with rejoicing!

Whenever any soul is saved, Christ rejoices and that rejoicing is conveyed to us! Christ makes us glad and happy in our salvation. He communicates His joy to His people. It isn’t something matter-of-fact to Him. He is fully absorbed in saving the lost and He is overjoyed in doing it and that joy becomes part of our salvation.

Surely this is one of the most amazing pictures in the whole of Scripture concerning the person and work of Christ as He says of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He seems to relish the very thought of that. He is pleased to be the Good Shepherd.

The Homecoming
“When he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Lk 15:6). Notice in verse 7 that our Lord shows us that the “home” to which He brings His saved sheep, is heaven itself. That is the ultimate destination for all true believers. We are going to heaven, and that heaven is our eternal home. It is none other than the home of our Lord Jesus and there is nothing that is equal to it. No earthly home is like heaven.

But there is a very real sense in which the sheep was “home” the moment it was found. No mention is made here of the journey back. The moment a soul comes to Christ they have come home. They shall never perish before they reach home. If ever a soul saved by Christ could be lost – then I am that soul. But I know that my eternal security is not of me or due to anything in me, it is all due to Him.

If a man could be lost again, then what good are the praises in heaven? We must tell them to stop rejoicing. If a child of God can once again become a child of hell, then there is nothing to rejoice about. Whenever our Lord does a work of grace, He always completes it. “I give unto my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (Jn 10:28).

I would say this to those of you who are not Christians. This is precisely the kind of Saviour and the kind of salvation that you need. Come to Him. He is seeking you and His desire is to save you and to bring you home with rejoicing.

Jesus said, “They know my voice.” In other words, when God speaks to men and women, they know it. Perhaps the Good Shepherd is seeking you out and He is speaking to you. He looks on you as He looked upon those crowds years ago and saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He says to you, “I know you, and I know all about you. I have come to tell you that I love you and that I died for people such as you. I will save you, keep you, satisfy you and bring you safely home to heaven at the last.” Come to Him even now, before ever it is too late.

William Hughes
- William Hughes has served as a pastor in UK and USA for over 40 years. He is now retired from full time ministry but continues to be a conference speaker in different countries including Singapore.

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