“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 neighbours, 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” (Luke 15:4-7).
The shepherd was dismayed when he found that one of his sheep was missing, and did all that he could to bring it back into the fold. He was not motivated by his financial loss but out of his care for a helpless and vulnerable creature. In this parable we find an illustration of Christ’s love and care for the spiritually lost. He did everything possible to bring sinners to repentance and salvation. The Good Shepherd gave up His own life so that we could have eternal life.
The love of the shepherd
The sheep was lost – The word “lost” is the same word that is translated “perish” in John 3:16, “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.” The sheep was heading for destruction. The shepherd could not bear the thought of this and so knew he had to act quickly to save it. Even though it was the sheep’s own fault, the shepherd did not leave it to suffer the consequences.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6) … “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). The Lord knows the condition of every person’s heart. Man is lost because of Adam’s sin, but is a sinner because he chooses to be one. Hell is the final destination of all that refuse to turn to Christ. “The wicked shall be turned into hell” (Psalm 9:17) … “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God did something to turn this situation around.
The sheep was loved – The sheep was precious to him and he wanted to see it restored to the flock. God’s love for man is beyond human measure. “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3), and He proved it, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). To see God’s love we do not need to look any further than Calvary.
The commitment of the shepherd
The Sacrifice – The shepherd put himself in extreme danger by searching for the sheep so late at night. He might have been attacked by wolves and dogs too. Our salvation was bought at a very high price. It cost the Lord Jesus Christ His life. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) … “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The Success – The shepherd kept going until he found the lost sheep. The Lord Jesus did not stop until He was able to cry, “It is finished” (John 19:30). From that moment everyone who was lost could receive salvation, for God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The conquest of the shepherd
The Rescue – The sheep was rescued from the danger it was in. We too have been delivered from the horror that awaited us. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God … He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:18, 36). We have been saved from sin and the power of it too, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11-14).
The Rest – The lost sheep could not find its own way home. It wandered away, but only the shepherd could bring it back to the place of rest, and that place was not the fold but the shepherd’s shoulders. It is not our strength but Christ’s that will bring us all the way through to Heaven. We can rest in Him because we know that He will never leave us or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5).
The Rejoicing – There was great rejoicing to celebrate the recovery of the lost sheep. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10). If the angels rejoice over the salvation of the lost, how much more so does God? “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
Salvation is only possible through Jesus. Notice that the shepherd searched for the sheep that was lost. The Lord is still calling to the lost. He is still going to find them wherever they have wandered. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Not one soul needs to go to Hell since Christ has made provision for them through His blood.