One sheep out of one hundred was lost. Ninety-nine needed no repentance. They considered themselves safe and in the fold. But for this one sheep, this straying one, this weak, scabby, ugly sheep, the Great Shepherd took His journey. He went into the wilderness. He was made sin. He was cursed. He did this to save His people, His sheep, from their sins. “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Matthew 1:21). He put His life in His hands, and laid down His life to redeem His lost sheep: each lost sheep, each specific, particular, individual lost sheep; each erring sheep. He left the folded ones to save the straying ones. “The Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered.” He sought out His sheep. And He found it. When He found it, He put it on His own shoulders. He carried that sheep home. But He didn’t stop there. He was so overjoyed that He called together His friends. He said, “Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep which was lost!” Our blessed Lord Himself gives the lesson. “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents more than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” What upside down logic this is to natural man! Christ does not save the righteous; but saves sinners! He desires mercy! He came to call sinners to repentance! (Matthew 9:13).
Did you notice the unspeakable riches of God’s grace in this account of repentance? Normally, when we cry “repent!” we throw down the hammer hard on lost, weary souls, who have foully gone astray and who are unable to produce the smallest heart-obedience to their Lord. Yet in this account, the lost sheep does nothing. It is the Shepherd alone who notices the missing sheep, determines to go and actually goes into the wilderness, seeks, finds, and brings back this lost sheep! Doesn't this parable highlight to us the greatness of our Shepherd against the contrast of our sin?! Does not this parable show to us our waywardness and our helplessness -- not merely helplessness, but our intentional straying, as sheep, whose nature it is to go our own way, and we are so stupid that we leave the very One who cares for us and provides for us and takes us to His own bosom?
Have you, dear friend, found in your heart of hearts that you have gone your own way, a way of your own choosing, a way uniquely evil to you, a way in which you have sought more than what the Shepherd provided, have left the safety of His fold, and by your rebellion have put the Shepherd’s life on the line to bring you back?!! Have you seen that it is the Shepherd who spent all to do all in order to have all of you for His own -- you, a straying sheep?!! And have you seen that heaven itself rejoices with the Shepherd, because He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, because He laid down His life for the sheep, and because He loved the sheep and saved them by Himself?!! (John 10:15-18; Isaiah 53:6; Hebrews 1:3).
Christ is a Shepherd to His sheep. Is the LORD Jesus Christ such a Shepherd to your soul? He sees our waywardness, our rebellion, our sin. He determines to save. He came to save. He finished and perfected our salvation in His own death on the cross. Now, by His death, because of His great power through His death, and for the great love of His heart, He not only died to save, but comes in His own Spirit to call, to draw, to bring His sheep to Himself.
The sheep is lost. It is prone even now to wander. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it!” The sheep is weak. Yet He carries it on His shoulder! Can any sight be greater than the one seen at the Shepherd’s return?! He makes much of His sheep. They are His Father’s, and they were given to Him. Given to Him to keep, protect, feed and save. Given to Him because He loved them. He loved them because they were dear to His Father. He gave Himself for them because they were precious in His sight. His blood was the precious price of their redemption, determined and shed before the foundation of the world for them (1 Peter 1:18-20). The great transaction is done! The redemption price has been paid! The fiend of hell has been bound! He can no longer hold nor devour any by sin and unbelief and the darkness of this world for whom the Shepherd died! The Shepherd comes in the power of His Spirit! He has given His life! Now He points His sheep to His perfect and finished work for them. He carries them on His shoulders by giving them faith to see that He did all and cannot fail to fulfill all and bring them all to Himself, to His Father, His many chosen, blood-bought, born-again sons to glory!
But our Blessed Lord does not end His lesson with the sheep. He multiplies grace with two more accounts! In the first He Himself discovers, recovers and rejoices over the lost sheep. In the second, a woman lights a candle to lighten the house in which she lost one coin. She searches diligently, sweeping the entire floor, until she finds the one lost coin. The lesson is again explained by our Blessed Lord. It is repentance again. This time, we see God the Holy Spirit, by the light of the Gospel of Christ, searching out the elect of God, shining Christ to them until He finds every every lost sinner belonging to His treasury. Upon finding it, He calls for all heaven to rejoice over this one lost piece that is found!
Finally, there is the prodigal. O! who among us can withhold tears of sorrow and joy while reading this? “The Father Himself loveth you” (John 16:27). It is against Him, against heaven, that we sinned. We left. We wasted. But He arranged affliction in our souls to bring us to Himself again. He sent the famine. He created a hunger and thirst and called His goodness to our minds that is in Christ, bringing us to our senses, giving us the words to pray (Romans 2:4; Hosea 14:1-4; :Ephesians 2:1-5). He brought us, but before we ever arrived, He comes to us, He runs to us, by His own Spirit, in the preaching of His Gospel, even to the rebellious, “As though God did you beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). He kisses us with the kisses of His mouth, the Word of God, the Gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). He enwraps us in His arms. He calls for the best robe to cover our nakedness, the righteousness of His own dear Son! He puts on our hand His own ring of sonship. He puts the shoes of the Gospel on our feet that we may walk in Christ. He calls for His servants to preach to us the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And in all this, we hear the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit making merriment in heaven in the presence of the angels, and saying to us in the garden of our souls, “My son, thy sins, which were many, are all forgiven thee!” “This my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found!” And they began to be merry. And the merriment never ends! Because God purposed, chose, redeemed, gave birth to His own -- birth by His Spirit through the seed of His Gospel (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). Now He reminds us and holds us and will finally present us to Himself, without spot or wrinkle. This He will do by His will, by Christ’s work, by the life-giving operation of His Spirit, applying Christ to us in His gift of faith, to receive all from Him!. O wonderful God-wrought task; for me, what God’s Son hath earned! Thank God for His gift of repentance to turn us, turning us from trusting everything and anything that we are to live by faith on the Son of God alone! What joy arises in our souls to know that God has put me in Christ, preserved me in Him, and brings me and keeps me in Him!
Depth of mercy! Can there be?
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus died and loves me still.
If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.
Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.
Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.