“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
The scribes and Pharisees prided themselves upon the idea that they were God’s chosen people, and they were filled with self-righteousness. “Christ came unto his own, and his own received him not.” He did not flatter the Pharisees or exalt them in any way. He received the publicans and sinners whom the Jews heartily despised, and, because his lessons of humility, compassions, and love rebuked their selfishness and pride, they would none of him, but turned from him in scorn. They made great ostentation, wore long robes, and stood praying on the corners of the streets, but none of these pretensions to piety awed the great Teacher or drew from him one word of approval. They flattered themselves, but he did not flatter them. The teaching of Christ was against all vanity and pride, for these were abhorrent to the Most High. It is the humble and the contrite whose prayers are heard in heaven. The Lord declares that he knoweth the proud afar off. He says, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
When the scribes and Pharisees saw the publicans and sinners following Christ and listening with living interest to his teaching, they could not tolerate either teacher or listeners. They hated Christ and said, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” By this accusation they thought to make the false impression that Jesus loved the association of those who were sinful and defiled, and was insensible to their wickedness. To this reproach Jesus replied by the parable of the lost sheep. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The parable of the lost sheep places man in the position of one who is helpless and undone. All are lost unless they are transformed in character. The lost condition of the sheep necessitates the coming of the True Shepherd, that, at any cost to himself, he may seek and save those that are perishing. Those who are wise in their own conceit do not realize the position in which they are placed by this parable. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost. Doth not the shepherd leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost he find it?
In giving his only-begotten Son to save us, the Lord God shows what is the estimate he puts upon man. To the question, What is the price of the soul of man? the answer is, The life of the only-begotten Son of God. And as Christ came to save man, high or low, rich or poor, white or black, are any to be treated with contempt? Satan has studied to lay in ruins the image of God, and, through intemperance and sin, obliterate all trace of his character in man. Christ came, clothing his divinity with humanity, that he might meet humanity and not extinguish humanity by divinity. He came to save the lost sheep, and became a servant in lowly ministry to lift up the lowly.
The science of salvation is a grand theme,and all the glory of restoring the image of God in man is to be laid at the feet of the Eternal. Holy angels have left the royal courts, and have come down to earth to encamp in the valleys in chariots of fire, a vast army, not to despise, not to rule, or require man to worship them, but to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation. Could human eyes be opened, they would see in times of danger when Satan goes forth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, that heavenly beings encamp around the little flock who love and fear God.
The heavenly Shepherd left the ninety and nine to seek the lost one. However dark the night, however severe the tempest, the Shepherd goes forth, at every step calling by name his lost sheep, until he hears its terrified, faint, and dying cry. Then he hunts amid the dangerous places, crosses the tangled briers, and finds his sheep. He rescues it from peril, places it on his shoulder, and with rejoicing returns to the fold. At every step he cries, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. “And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Could we see the heavenly angels watching with intense interest the steps of the Shepherd as he goes into the desert to seek and to save the lost, what wonder would fill our hearts! “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons [in their own estimation], which need no repentance.” It is he who is sick who feels the need of physician, and the mission of Christ to the world was to seek and to save those who were perishing. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”