I Have Found My Sheep!
In Luke 15:3-7 we find the first of three parables recorded in that chapter. Jesus had a common theme in mind as He spoke the words of these parables, and that theme is the joy in heaven over recovery of the lost soul. The three parables are the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (commonly referred to as the prodigal son). There are some differences in these parables. For example, the sheep would have been lost through its own carelessness or lack of attentiveness. The coin was lost through the actions of another. The son was lost through his own prideful misconduct.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the lost sheep. There is a song that has been written that is taken from this parable that I would also like to notice. It is five verses long and is entitled “The Ninety And Nine” written by Elizabeth C. Clephane and arranged by Ira D. Sankey. We'll note each of these five verses and relate them to the parable. First, notice the parable:
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one who is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).
Safety and Crises
Verse one of the song begins by noting that there were ninety-nine sheep safe “in the fold.” I suppose that was a bit of poetic license, for in the parable they are left in the pasture. But one sheep was lost in the hills; on the “mountains wild and bare” and “away from the loving shepherd's care.”
One thing this parable shows is the Lord's care for each individual. None of us are considered by Him to lack value. As the shepherd would have done the same for any individual separated from the flock, the Lord desires to aid each one of us.
The Lord loves those who are safe in Him by faith (2 Timothy 4:18; Romans 8:31-39). He is glad for them, but the lost one is in extreme peril. So, attention is focused upon him. The missing sheep is still His, only lost and at risk (Luke 19:10). The “mountains wild and bare” symbolize the horrible, hopeless situation of those who have wandered from God.
Into The Desert
The second verse of the song has the shepherd, in spite of the fact that He still has ninety-nine sheep, venturing into the desert to find his lost sheep. The question is asked of the shepherd, “Are they not enough for Thee?” His answer; “This of Mine has wandered away from Me.”
The Lord expresses His concern by both words and actions. His concern is genuine; after all, He is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:2-4; 11; 14-15).
“I go to the desert to find My sheep” is as about a good a way to describe our Lord coming to this earth as I can think of. The temptations, trials, grief, loneliness, exhaustion and agonies He suffered here are testimony enough of His great love for us, especially considering the rich comforts of glory which He left behind (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:1-8).
Dangers and Troubles
The third verse brings out the staggering greatness of the ordeal suffered by the shepherd. The “ransomed” never knew how deep were the “waters crossed” or how “dark was the night” that our Lord went through before He could bring back the lost sheep. The hopeless despair of the lost is seen in the pitiful cry of the sheep that comes to the shepherd's ears; “'Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.”
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be “smitten and afflicted” while on His mission to save us. The gospel records that Jesus was “deeply grieved unto the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38-39; 42). Then, this lead Him to further mocking and finally the crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-31; John 19:18; 28-30).
But, without Him the sheep will perish. Of course, there is a difference between men and sheep. Man is responsible for his lost state, therefore it is up to man to respond to the Lord in much the same way as the lost son returned home to his father in the third parable.
The Blood That Saves
The fourth verse reminds us of the blood Jesus supplied to save us (Matthew 26:28; Romans 6:7-10; 1 John 1:7). The hymn says, “Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that marks out the mountains track?” and “Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?” The answer is that the blood was shed by the Shepherd in the bringing back of the sheep to safety and the hands were “pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
The final verse of the song speaks of the “glad cry” that rose up: “Rejoice, I have found my sheep.” The angels themselves also react with joy “Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own.”
Yes, the angels themselves rejoice over our being blessed in Christ with spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Often, out of affliction comes joy. Uncertainty has been replaced with confidence, comfort and peace.
Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 22.2; February 2015