Reading: Luke 15:1-7
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” And he spake this parable unto them, saying, “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.”
The Pharisees claimed to love God by obeying His commandments, but in reality, their greatest source of pride was their own “holiness” and “righteousness.” They loved their purity so much that they didn’t even want to be close to those that they considered sinners. This included not only the true sinners, but also everyone who did not live up to the same standards as them.
A Pharisee felt himself superior and purer than others, and believed that dealing with sinners contaminated him. And here comes Jesus, sitting at the table with sinners, eating with them, listening to them, and sharing with them the life-giving Word. How scandalous!
Jesus is speaking directly to the Pharisees with this parable of the lost sheep, in which He Himself is the shepherd who has come seeking the lost, healing the sick, giving life to the dead. But the parable confronts these holy men with the reality of their attitude. If anyone would be willing to go out in search of a sheep that has been lost, how can the life of a man created in the image of God have no value? Where is their obedience when they don’t show the mercy and love that God’s Law teaches?
That is the issue: the Pharisee had a too-high opinion of themselves. For this reason, they couldn’t recognize their need, and they even wanted to find fault with Jesus, the righteous.
We don’t show our love for God by separating ourselves from those who don’t know Him, but rather the opposite, by reaching them with the message of the Gospel (in actions, in attitudes, and in the proclamation and teaching of the Gospel).
What should we avoid? Sin, obviously. Jesus never participated in the sin of those with whom He spent time, but called them time and time again to repent, and He showed them His grace… The same grace that we receive.
The Gospel helps us understand that we are all that lost sheep, that the Shepherd went out seeking us with so much determination that He went to the cross to save us. The Gospel tells us of the joy that there is in Heaven for each sheep that is found. And the Gospel shows us that the sheep that does not know that it is lost, or that doesn’t want to recognize it is the one that is in the worst condition.
MEDITATE: How can we approach those who are lost, without God, and without hope? Have we ever walked away from someone believing that we were superior? May the LORD help us!
Translation By: Emily Stader