Posts Tagged ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’

“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.” Luke 15:1

If Jesus were to walk into your town today, I wonder what kind of people He would attract. If you were like the rest of us, you’d probably expect all the well-put-together churchgoers to show up and occupy the front row seats. But you just might be surprised.

In Luke 15:1-32, it wasn’t the good folk who crowded around Jesus; it was the tax collectors and “sinners.” These were the ones who lived in blatant disregard for the law—the problem people in town! Which makes me wonder, what is it about Jesus that attracted them? And why were the “good folk” standing at the fringe of the crowd? Because they were ticked at sinners to begin with and mad at Jesus for hanging out with such unworthy people!

Thankfully, Jesus puts things into perspective for them—and for us—with a few lessons about why He hangs out with sinners, by telling the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

The point Jesus makes is that sinners have great value to God. Why else would the shepherd go after one lost sheep, or the woman conduct a diligent search for her coin? They had suffered significant loss—a loss like God suffered when sin took people, His prized possession, away from Him.

And, to make matters worse, sinners are hopelessly lost. Sheep can’t help themselves when lost, and obviously when a coin is lost, it remains lost until someone finds it. Which means there must be intentional intervention to rescue the lost. That’s why Jesus said that He came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Obviously the grumblers on the fringe didn’t get it, but it was Jesus’ love and pursuit of sinners that drew their hearts to Him.

Got any “sinners” near you? Are you feeling a little standoffish and grumpy about them, or are you compelled to love them by launching a rescue operation of your own? After all, I bet you’re glad He went after you—as hopelessly lost and hell-bound as you were. So take a moment to remember what it was like to be lost, and do what you can to attract others to the joy of being found. You can’t go wrong when you’re at the core of the crowd. See you there!

Lord Jesus, I want to be at the core of the crowd.  Forgive me for attitudes that counteract Your abundant mercy for the lost, and enable me to be Your hands and feet to reach out to those who desperately need to be found. Amen


  • Are you at the fringe of the crowd with the religious folk, grumbling about “sinners”? If so, read Romans 2:3-4, and ask the Lord to replace your judgmental spirit with His heart of compassion.
  • Are you at the core of the crowd, as one of the “sinners” who has found Jesus? If so, how does this help stir a heart of compassion for other “sinners” around you?
  • What attitudes and actions in your life might be detracting others from the love of Jesus? Are there some things in your life that attract people to Him?

“My son…was lost, and is found.”                                                 Lk 15:24

After telling the story of the lost sheep and the lost silver, Jesus ends up by telling us the story of the lost son. The interesting thing about him is that he knew he was lost, and knew his way home. The shepherd sought the lost sheep, the lady with the lamp sought the lost silver, but nobody went looking for the lost son. Only when he had squandered his inheritance and ended up in a pigpen do we read: “When he came to his senses, he said…‘I will…go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned’…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was…lost and is found’” (vv.17-24 NIV). Backslider, though you have walked away from God, He is waiting to welcome you home. Your place at the table is reserved. He has a ring of sonship that identifies you as His own, and a robe of righteousness to cover your shame. The Prodigal Son’s joy didn’t return until he came back to his father’s house. So, you have a decision to make. Though you’re disappointed in yourself and ashamed before the God you’ve failed, you can come back home. And you can come today.

“I have found my sheep which was lost.”                                Lk 15:6 NKJV

Luke chapter 15 is sometimes referred to as “the lost and found column” of the Bible. In it you find the parable of the lost sheep, the lost silver, and the lost son. Today let’s look at the lost sheep. Like all of us, it had no intention of losing its way. Indeed, it probably thought it wasn’t lost at all. This parable shows us two wonderful things about Jesus, our Shepherd: (1) The value God places on you!Some of us would say, “It’s only one out of a hundred sheep, no big deal, nobody will miss it.” Wrong, the Good Shepherd will! Understand this: If you had been the only person who ever lived, Jesus would have gone to the cross and died just for you. Next time you feel worthless and unloved, think about that! (2) The lengths to which God will go to save you! To save Cornelius, a Gentile, God demolished social and religious barriers and sent Peter, a Jew, down to Caesarea to preach the gospel to him. Heaven cannot shut its ears to the cry of one lost soul! When Cornelius prayed, God replied, “Your prayers…have come up for a memorial before [me]” (Ac 10:4 NKJV). And here’s a gem: “When [the shepherd] has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Lk 15:5 NKJV). Jesus will not only save you, He will “carry” you when you feel you can’t go on. His promise is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5 NKJV). One Sunday when Charles Spurgeon preached, a man jumped up and shouted, “I’m lost!” Spurgeon replied, “Thank God, you’ve just been found!”

Because tax-gathers and sinners kept coming to Jesus to hear him, the Pharisees and scribes complained, “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them!” So he told them this story: “What man of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go and hunt for the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and when he gets home calls together his friends and says, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the sheep that I lost.’ So, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who is truly sorry and promises to do right than over ninety-nine upright men who have no need to do so.

“Or which one of you women, if she has ten silver coins but has lost one, does not light a lamp, sweep the house thoroughly, and search carefully until she finds it? After finding it she calls together her friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I lost.’ So, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who is truly sorry and promises to do right.”

Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me the part of your property that belongs to me.’ So the Father divided his property between his two sons. A few days later, the younger son got together all that he had and went into a distant country where he wasted his money in reckless living. After he had spent it all, there was a great famine in the land, and he began to be in want. So he agreed to work for a man of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine; and he was ready to eat even the pods that the swine were eating, for no one gave him food. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough to eat while I die here of hunger! I will go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’

“So he went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt pity for him, and ran and threw his arms about his neck and tenderly kissed him. Then his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring a coat, the best, and put it on him and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead but has come back to life, he was lost but has been found.’ So they began to make merry.

“Now the elder son was out in the fields, and as he came near the house he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what all this meant. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ And he was angry and would not go in so his father came out to reason with him, but he answered, ‘See all these many years I have worked for you and never disobeyed one of your commands, yet you never gave me so much as a young goat that I might have a feast with my friends. But now when this son of yours comes, who has wasted your money with wicked women, you kill the fatted calf for him!’ His father answered, ‘Son, you are with me always and all that I have is yours; but it was right to make merry and rejoice because of your brother, for he was dead but has come back to life, he was lost but has been found.'”

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?… Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?–Luk 15:4-8

“There Is Something Astonishing in the Christian Religion

In the Catacombs at Rome there is no more familiar painting than that of the Good Shepherd with the straying sheep. Sometimes the other sheep are at His feet, gazing up at Him and at His burden; sometimes He is portrayed as sitting down, wearied with His long and painful journey; but always there is a great gladness in the picture, for the painter had felt, in all its morning freshness, the wonder of the seeking love of God. I trust we shall never lose that sense of wonder. “Let men say what they will,” wrote Pascal, “I must avow there is something astonishing in the Christian religion.” And there is nothing in it more astonishing than this, that God should have come to seek and save the lost. It is that glad news which lights up all our lesson. It is that truth which, like some strain of unexpected music, makes these two parables a joy forever. We shall never know, till all the books are opened, how much sinful and despairing men have owed to the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

He Seeks Them One by One

Now as we read these two parables together, one of the first things to arrest us powerfully is the worth of single souls. It was one sheep the shepherd went to find. It was for one coin the woman searched the house. If a score, say, of the flock had gone missing, we could better understand the shepherd’s action. And we might excuse the bustle and the dust if five of the ten coins had rolled away. The strange thing is that with ninety and nine sheep safe, the shepherd should break his heart about the one. The wonder is that for one little coin there should be such a hunt and such a happiness. It speaks to us of the worth of single souls. It tells us of the great concern of God for the recovery of individual men. We are all separated out, and separately loved, by Him who counteth the number of the stars. I have looked sometimes at the lights of a great city, and tried to distinguish one lamp here and there; and I have thought what a perfect knowledge that would be, if a man could discriminate each separate light. But God distinguishes each separate heart. He knows and loves and seeks them one by one. And I can never feel lost in the totality, when I have mastered the chapter for today. I am not one of many with the Master. With Him, souls are not reckoned by the score. I stand alone. He has a hundred sheep to tend, I know it; yet somehow all His heart is given to me.

No Cost Is Too Great

Again this truth shines brightly in these parables: no toil or pains are grudged to win the lost. When the shepherd started after his straying sheep, he knew quite well it was a dangerous errand. He was going to face the perils of the desert, and he took his life in his hand in doing that. True, he was armed; but if a band of robbers intercepted him, what chance had one man of coming off the victor? And who could tell what ravenous beasts lay couched between the shepherd and his vagrant charge? A hireling would never have ventured on the quest. He would have said, “There is a lion in the way.” But this shepherd was not to be deterred; he risked all danger; nothing would keep him back, if only he might find and save the lost. The woman, too, was thoroughly in earnest. She spared no pains to get her piece of silver. She lit her candle and she swept the house, till the whole household grumbled at the dust, and charged her not to fuss about a trifle. But the trifle was no trifle to her; and she persisted and swept until she found it. Do you not see what that is meant to teach us? God spares no pain or toils to win the lost. Do you not see where all that is interpreted? It is in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. He, like the woman, was passionately earnest, till all His household–His own: the Jewish people–murmured at Him in their hearts and hated Him. And He, like the shepherd, ventured on every danger, and for His sheep’s sake, took the road to Calvary. No pains, no sorrows, were ever grudged by Him who came into the wilderness to save; and He has left us an example, that we should follow in His steps.

Where Are the Lost?

I want you, too, to mark this in our lesson: there is loss in the house as well as in the desert. It was in the wilderness that the sheep was lost. It was far from the fold with its protecting wail. But the coin was not lost in any wilderness–it had not even rolled into the street. It was still in the house; it was within the walls; it was lying somewhere on the dusty floor. So there are multitudes of men lost in heathendom; lost to the joy of the Gospel and the hopes of God in the far countries where Christ was never known. But are there not multitudes who, like the piece of silver, stamped with God’s image, coined for useful service, are lying lost and useless in the house? They have been born and nurtured in a Christian country, they are encircled by Christian care and love, they are within the walls of the church visible, they have heard from childhood the message of the Gospel; yet they have never yielded their lives to the Redeemer; within the walls of the homestead they are lost. Are there no lost coins in your home? Give God no rest till by the light of His Spirit they are found.

For What Are They Found?

Note, lastly, in a Word, this joyful truth: the sheep, when found, was carried by the shepherd. He did not drive it before the flock. He did not commit it to the charge of any underling. He laid it rejoicingly on his own shoulders, and on his own shoulders bore it home. When the coin was found it was restored to service; it became useful for the woman’s need. But when the sheep was found it was upheld in the strong arm of the shepherd, till the perils of the desert were no more. So everyone who is saved by Jesus Christ is saved to be of service to his Lord. There is some little work for him to do, just as there was for this little piece of silver. But he is not only found that he may serve. He shall be kept and carried like the sheep. He shall find himself borne homeward by a love that is far too strong ever to let him go. It is only when we are leaning upon Christ that we are able to win heavenward at all. He alone keeps us from falling, and can present us faultless before the presence of God’s glory, with exceeding joy.