Luke 15: 1 – 7
When You Have Reached Bottom
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 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.
The apostle Matthew also wrote about this in his Gospel, so let’s see what he wrote in chapter 18, “10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. 12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
In this chapter our Lord Jesus commences by vividly illuminating His coming statement in chapter 19 verse 10 that ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. The three parables in this present chapter have the one theme, the rejoicing over the finding of what had been lost. Together the parables reveal the reaching out of God towards man, and man’s required response.
In these three Parables our Lord Jesus here delineates three types of sinner. The first is like a sheep, he goes astray through foolishness and thoughtlessness, drawn away by the promise of better pasture elsewhere; the second is like the coin, he simply goes astray by accident or as a result of the carelessness of those who should be watching over him; the third goes astray by his own self-will and as a result of a desire for pleasure. But all end up in the same situation and all need to come back to the father in the same way.
Our Lord Jesus Is the Good Shepherd. He has the love of the shepherd for his wayward sheep as we will see in this first Parable.
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
Gathered in the crowds around The Lord Jesus were large numbers of public servants and ‘sinners’. The ‘public servants were those who served the Romans in one way or another, either under Herod or under Pilate, both of whom represented Rome. They would include a large number of tax and toll collectors, men, often brutal men, who had taken advantage of the system to enrich them, and they would be as unwelcome to the sinners as they were to the Pharisees. We must not just ignore the truth about them. The ‘sinners’ were those who did not in Pharisaic eyes sufficiently follow the laws of cleanness and uncleanness, the laws of tithing, and so on. They would include those guilty of all kinds of sins, some mild, others more serious. But all shared one common position. They were despised by the Pharisees. Yet their presence here indicated that in their hearts there was a desire for the truth, and a recognition that their present lives were unsatisfactory.
Our Great King Jesus welcomed them and everyone today as who are seeking to change, not as those who would stay as they were. And while to the Pharisees their presence was an offence, to Heaven it was a joy.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
It is clear that our Lord Jesus welcomed these ‘public servants and sinners’ openly and was willing to eat among them, quite probably often in a kind of picnic situation, although no doubt sometimes being invited to people’s houses. And this was so much so that the Pharisees muttered among themselves at what they saw to be His ‘irreligious behavior’.
3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying
In His parable our Holy Adoni Yeshua demonstrated that He was merely behaving like the shepherds of Israel which were the religious leaders here should have behaved. He was watching over God’s sheep and seeking out those who had strayed.
4 “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?
Our Lord Jesus deliberately addresses the ‘sinners’ among the crowd by saying, ‘Which man of you’, indicating by this that He is classing His listeners with shepherds, who were seen as almost permanently unclean and avoided. Think about today of some type of employment that you think is disgusting. For example those who clean out animal or human waste. If you find this example disgusting then you can understand how the Pharisee’s felt being listed as a shepherd.
Each shepherd would know each of his sheep by name and would not need to count them. He would see almost immediately which one was missing. Distressed at the realization this shepherd leaves his remaining sheep with his fellow-shepherds and goes out to seek the one that is lost. And he does not cease in his search until he has found it. All faithful shepherds would immediately respond to the picture, recognizing in it their common experience. But behind the parable is the theme of the care of God and His Messiah over His flock. Look at this awesome description of our Great God.
Ezekiel 34:11-1211 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.”
Ezekiel 34:23-24, “23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.”
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Please note that in this narrating of the parable success is assumed. It is not ‘if’ He finds it, but ‘when’ He finds it.
Is there something presently going on in your life such as a wayward son or daughter? Do you fell like you reached bottom? You see no end to a problem? Please again take note that in the eyes of God, He Is the One Who Is going after the staying sheep, not you. This is why He can speak of the success. For as you well know, He knows all things from the beginning to the end. He knows when and where He will rescue His own. Take this promise and record it in your thoughts often.
This carrying of the sheep on his shoulders would be normal practice for a shepherd. The sheep would be exhausted, and the shepherd triumphant and rejoicing over finding His lamb alive will have the energy and strength to carry it back home.
I think almost everyone has had an extreme dark period in their lives where they despaired of life itself. For me during this time my Lord Jesus came into my life. He used this poem written by Carolyn Joyce Carty.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it: "LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me." The LORD replied: "My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
Arriving home the shepherd calls together his friends and neighbors, announcing that he has found his lost sheep. Such a celebration might at first seem a little excessive, Do you have a pet? Then you can understand the love and joy of finding one you thought was lost forever.
I want to share with you a great thing our Lord did for me. You might not think it was that special but it meant so much to me that I wrote it down on my personal list of the ‘great things God has done for me.’
I oversee a soccer sports program. On Saturday’s my volunteer time is from 5 AM until about 6 PM. We have about 400 kids in our program. I had left my cell phone in my office while I was out on the soccer field which is part of our church property. After cleaning up I came back inside to gather my personal items and noticed that my wife had tried to reach me a few times. So, I called her back. She told me that our son who like to run in the park with his dog was quite upset because his dog had run away while at the park.
You see a few weeks prior while walking with his new bride a pit bull got loose and went after them. Their dog an English shepherd got pretty ripped up. So, my son was not wise to let his dog just run with him without a leash because a couple of mountain bikers spooked him and he took off in fear.
So, I gave my son a call which now was around 5 PM. He was crying as he told me that the dog has been missing since around 9 AM and that it was probably lying dead along the side of some highway. I asked him if I could go over to the park where he was at and see if I could also join in the search. He told me that it was a waste of time but if I still wanted to go there then it was okay.
I arrived at the park where it was getting now dark. I just sat in the parking lot and thought to myself, ‘What the heck am I doing here? What can I do? This is stupid being here.’ Then I thought ‘why not just pray.’ As I called upon our Great Jehovah Elyon – The Lord Most High – the incident when Saul was out looking for his father’s donkeys came to my mind. I said to our Holy Creator that as He helped Saul find the donkeys He could also help me find this missing dog. Now, [this still chokes me up] as I had just said ‘Lord You can find the dog’, my sons dog ran past my car. I did a double take. ‘Oh, my God, its Toby! I jumped out of the car and yelled his name. Now you have to understand that this dog does not know me. The dog stopped. I got on one knee and said, ‘come here Toby.’ The dog came up to me and as I pet it and said his name, I grabbed his collar. I picked him up and put him in the back seat. I’ll tell you, I was praising Jesus left and right out loud.
I called my son and screamed on the phone in joy that I found his dog. He and his wife did not believe me. They thought I just found some stray dog. ‘No, no,’ I said, ‘It’s Toby!’ I told them to meet me in a shopping center parking lot that was nearby the park. They were shocked when they pulled up and saw their dog in the back seat. We all cried with tears of joy. Thank you again Lord Jesus.
7 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.
Our Lord Jesus then completes the parable with a comparison. Not only do sinners gather together to rejoice in the finding of what is lost, but when it is a lost sinner so also does Heaven. God Himself rejoices, and all who are with Him.
‘There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance.’ This is not to disparage the ninety and nine, or to suggest that they were loved the less. The latter, if genuinely righteous, are fully appreciated in Heaven. However, they are not a surprise. But to find something valuable that is lost is an especially delightful surprise.
It is noteworthy in all this how confidently Jesus can speak of goings on in Heaven. For Him it was not ‘beyond the veil’. It was home.
Let me ask you a question, have you lead a person to Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior? If not why not? Do you think it is the responsibility of others?
Do you realize that in heaven there is an almost continuous party going on in Heaven. For every time a sinner comes to God based on His rules Heaven rejoices.
‘There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance.’ This is not to disparage the ninety and nine, or to suggest that they were loved the less. The latter, if genuinely righteous, are fully appreciated in Heaven. However, they are not a surprise. But to find something valuable that is lost is an especially delightful surprise as verse 7 says, “7 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.”