Lesson: PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP
Scripture: Matthew 18:11-14
I believe that if you were to ask Jesus to give one reason for why He came to earth, He would wrap it all up with this one statement:
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
This testimony by our Lord begins the parable we are going to study. It is different from the parable of the lost sheep found in Luke 15. The key to this parable is the word “save.” In Luke 15 the emphasis is upon finding the lost, and in Mathew 18 it is upon saving the lost. Here in this short verse there is the gracious plan of Christ concerning mankind; for the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. This is one reason, why the angels care for the sheep of God; it is because they are following the Lord’s plan to save His sheep.
Do you believe in angels: you should? The care of angels is established in the mediation of Christ for believers. We should never look down on anyone, from the greatest to the least, because Christ came to save them, and He has given angels to watch over them. Psalm 91 talks about that when it says, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (vv. 11-12). Christians are under the constant care of angels, and it is comforting to note that the word is not singular but plural, angels. Caring properly for us is more than a one angel job. The angels are said to bear us up lest we dash our foot against a stone. How wonderful it is to know that they bear us in their hands, as a mother would give tender loving care to a small child.
All of us began life with lost souls. We start out just as lost as any traveler was ever lost; just as lost as a convicted prisoner that has lost all hope of freedom. And God has also lost something. God lost the service of fallen man, and He lost the honor He should have received from him. Jesus had a job to do when He entered into the world: it was to save that which was lost, and to awaken our faithfulness; it was to restore us to our work, and to reinstate our privileges; it was to set our feet on the path that leads to eternal life; and to save those that are spiritually lost from being lost for all eternity. That’s the reason why the very least and weakest believers should not be unloved or disrespected. If Jesus put such a high value on them, we should not undervalue them. If He denied himself so much for their salvation, surely we should deny ourselves for their teaching and encouragement.
But, I believe there may be a warning implied in His words. If Christ came into the world to save souls, and his heart is so set upon doing that work, He will deal severely with those that obstruct and hinder it. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost”, is one of the greatest statements in the Bible, and it shows the tender regard which our heavenly Father has for His people, and his concern for their welfare.
In verses 12 and 13 it speaks of Jesus; the Good Shepherd of the sheep of God.
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
The owner had lost one sheep out of a hundred, but he can’t forget it because it’s his sheep. He diligently looks for it, and he is very happy when he has found it. The joy that he feels from finding his sheep is more than what he feels for the ninety and nine that didn’t wander off. He doesn’t love this one more than the others so why is he so happy? It’s because the fear of losing that one, and the surprise of finding it, add to the joy.
Now, I believe we can make a couple of applications of what Jesus wants to teach us with this parable. First, the parable can be applied to the state of fallen man in general. He has strayed like a lost sheep. The angels that stayed in heaven were like the ninety-nine that never went astray.
But Jesus, with great effort and at a terrible personal cost looked for the man as he wandered here and there. And He never stops seeking, until the lost one is found and returned to the fold. The sheep is happy to be found, but he is not half as happy as the Great Shepherd that has found him. And the Bible declares that there is greater joy in heaven for returning sinners than for remaining angels.
Now, this parable can also be applied to particular believers, who doubt God when stumbling-blocks are laid in their way. They are saved, but they don’t trust God to get them through hardships and trials or they are seduced to go back into the world by the deception of others. Even though only one of a hundred may be driven off, as sheep often are, yet that one will be looked after with a great deal of care, and when it is returned it will be welcomed with a great deal of joy; and therefore, the Good Shepherd will have reason to show His displeasure to those who want to harm His sheep.
If there is joy in heaven for finding one of these little ones, there is wrath in heaven for offending one of them. You can take it to the bank that God is graciously concerned, not only for his flock in general, but for every lamb, or sheep, that belongs to it. Although they are many, yet out of those many sheep he can easily become aware of one that is missing, because he is a great Shepherd. But He will not easily lose it, because He is a good Shepherd, and He is intensely watchful of his flock; more so than any other shepherd. In John 10:3 it talks about the Good Shepherd: “…and the sheep hear His voice; and He calleth His own sheep by name…”
Let me digress for a moment to say that when the Lord Jesus calls his own out of the world at the time of the Rapture, I believe that His call will have every believer’s name in it. I think I will hear Him say personally, “Tom Lowe.” That will be wonderful! He knows my name, you see, and he’ll call it out at that time. And He’ll call you if you are one of His sheep. You will hear your name in His shout.
In verse 14, Jesus speaks of the Father’s will.
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Note that “these little ones” are not only the little ones who were brought to see Jesus by their mothers; and that’s when we heard Jesus say to His disciples, “suffer the little children to come unto Me.” These little ones are His sheep and those who will in the future become His sheep.
More is implied than is expressed in this verse. It is not His will or the Father’s will that anyone die without Christ as their Savior. It is not His will that any should perish, but, it is His will, that these little ones should be saved. That was His plan from the beginning, and He set his heart to see that it gets done. And it’s also His will that we do all we can to further His desire, and to see that nothing hinders it. The Lord’s care expands itself to include every particular member of the flock, even the most humble.
We may think that if one or two Christians fall away and go back into the world it is not a big deal, but God’s thoughts and love and tenderness are above ours. And besides, how can the Lord ever abandon one of His own that He died for. He left heaven to be with His sheep that He loves. Someday He will return for all His sheep, and He will take them to heaven to spend eternity with Him.