Picture with me a scene:
Jesus has been teaching large crowds of people. And now all the tax collectors and sinners are coming near to listen to Him. The Pharisees, who are standing around, see this and are horrified. They begin to grumble saying to one another, “This man receives sinners and eats with them?!”
Jesus’ response is a story.
What man among you if he has a hundred sheep and lost one of them would leave the ninety-nine and go after the one lost sheep until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, carries it home rejoicing and throws a big party for the one lost sheep.
And then Jesus says,
I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
So Jesus essentially puts the Pharisees in their place. He tells them that their righteousness, and goodness, and Law-keeping is not enough. He makes the point to say that there is more rejoicing in Heaven over the one sinner who repents and knows he is in desperate need of help and salvation, than over ninety-nine who think that they are just fine and don’t need any help at all.
The Pharisees had no idea that they were sinners. They followed the Law. They kept it perfectly. It was their righteousness that was blinding them to the truth of how desperately they needed to be saved.
Where do you and I fall today? Do we see ourselves as sinners desperately in need of a Savior and of God’s daily, minute-by-minute grace? Or are we relying on our own righteousness, thinking that in our own goodness we are doing just fine?
In His story, Jesus uses sheep as a comparison to people, which He often does.
Tim Keller says this about sheep:
“A sheep is a stupid animal. It loses its direction constantly in a way that a cat or dog never does. And even when you find the lost sheep it goes to and fro and will not follow you home. So when you find it, you must seize it, throw it down, tie it, throw it over your shoulders and carry it home. That’s the only way to find a lost sheep.”
Sheep are utterly dependent on their provider, their protector, their shepherd. In fact, sheep are so utterly dependent on their shepherd that they don’t even know which way to go on their own. They follow their shepherd. And if they do wander off, as is the example in this passage, they are in desperate need of rescue.
- Just like those sheep, we need to be rescued. We have absolutely no hope of saving ourselves. Even if we wander off, we have no hope of finding our way back. Jesus has to come get us. In our own power, we can’t do anything to will ourselves or make ourselves get into right relationship with God.
This is true both for unbelievers and believers. For the unsaved, only Jesus can reach down and breathe life into the dead and lifeless. Only He can rescue. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to save ourselves.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we may find ourselves in circumstances where we as sheep have wandered away from our Shepherd. And in those times, we need Him to put us on His shoulders and bring us back. We can’t do it ourselves.
Here’s the truth. You and I need a Savior. Not just at the moment of salvation, but every single day.
- Jesus is the Shepherd and He controls His sheep.
In His great love, Jesus will not let His sheep continue in sin. When we wander away, He will do what it takes to bring us back to Him. Even if, like Tim Keller said, He must “seize [us], throw [us] down, tie [us up], and throw [us] over [His] shoulders and carry [us] home.”
We must be willing to give up our control and follow Jesus, our Shepherd, listening to His voice, and trusting His sovereign leading in our lives.
Recently, I read this on a blog: “Even though you and I don’t like to give up control here is why you trust Jesus. Because Jesus is the only one who can say, I am the Shepherd who actually became the sheep, became a Lamb in order to save you. That’s how I brought you home.”
What a beautiful reminder today.
Anchored in Christ,