“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?” Luke 15:4.
During His ministry, Christ attracted a lot of people who were looked down upon by the mainstream society of that day; chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel begins with the line “all the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him.” Christ never turned these people away, instead, He welcomed them and ministered to them. His openness to be around such people drove the religious elite crazy. One of their main complaints against Christ was that He “welcomes sinners and eats with them!” It baffled them that a righteous man, such as Christ, would befriend unrighteous and immoral people. Why would such a religious man associate with sinners? These critics were so caught up in the vanity of their own righteousness that they were completely missing the point of Christ’s ministry.
So, as He did numerous times, Christ resorted to telling a parable to get His point across. A parable is a story that tells a story; a fable of sorts. In this parable, Christ speaks of a shepherd, and this shepherd has 100 sheep in his flock. One day, as he is watching over his flock, the shepherd realizes that one of his sheep is missing. Just one; the remaining 99 are safe and accounted for. What does this shepherd do? Does he decide to cut his losses on the one and stay and tend to the remaining 99? No. He leaves the 99 and he goes out and searches for the one. He does not stop looking until he finds the one and returns it safely to the flock. And when he finds the one, there is great rejoicing and celebration, because the lost sheep has been found.
What in the world was Christ talking about? It makes absolutely no sense for the shepherd to leave his 99 sheep unattended to go looking for one. Why does the shepherd spend so much time looking for one lost sheep?
The answer is simple: because the shepherd loves the sheep. Remember that this story is a parable; though Christ is telling a story about a shepherd and his sheep, the story itself is telling us another story. What is it that Christ is teaching us? It is this: Jesus is the good shepherd. He left His throne in Heaven and came to Earth, searching high and low for all the lost sheep of his flock- those who are lost in sin and wandering away from God. He is coming to save the sinners, to return them to the flock. In other words, Christ is silencing His critics’ complaint about His association with sinful people by saying, “These are my sheep too. I have come to take them out of their sinful ways and to return them to the flock.”
At one time or another, we were lost sheep as well. We must remember that. When we see those around us who may still be in sin, we are not to gloat and boast in our self-righteousness, as Christ’s critics did. Instead, we are to have compassion for them, for we once were in their place. Christ is still the good shepherd, and He is still out looking for lost sheep. We are to follow His example and minister to those who need to be ministered to.