"Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep! Count on it-there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue" Luke 15:7.
In a crowd composed of the religious authorities and their supposed counterparts the riff-raff, Jesus launched into story telling mode. First up, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
Unlike the rest of the flock, graduates of The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior, this little nitwit was in trouble. Determined to go its own way, the scofflaw lamb wandered off into dangerous territory. The other ninety-nine played by the rules and never colored outside the lines. So confident in their ability to hold down the fort alone none of them flinched when the shepherd, their only protection, took off after the woolly rascal. "Who needs a shepherd?' they mused. "We're graduates. We've got the sheepskins to prove it. We can handle this on our own."
Now, what shepherd in his right mind endangers the life of ninety-nine line-towing, law-abiding, sheep in order to track down one willfully disobedient renegade? Grazed in open country, sheep are susceptible to predators who can quickly disseminate the flock. What was the shepherd thinking?
How did the shepherd react when he'd found his lost charge? Did he give it a stern talking to or brow beat it for its reckless behavior? Did he apply some corporal punishment to knock some sense into its head and teach it a lesson? No. Overjoyed to find the wanderer, he hoisted it up on his shoulders and gave it a ride home. Once there he threw a party in the lost lamb's honor and invited all to come celebrate. So much for teaching the renegade a lesson.
On it's part the lost lamb did nothing. Zero. Nada. No apology, penance or promise to never do that again. Nothing. He's Ubered home via the shepherd personally and then feted. Life was grand.
If the story's about shepherding, our boy's a blooming idiot. But it isn't. The religious leaders were put off, offended by the low-lifers Jesus attracted. Even worse, He welcomed and embraced them instead of demanding they either clean up their acts or worse, enroll in The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior that the leaders just happened to run. Jesus knew this was the last thing needed.
The message of His story wasn't lost to the Pharisees and scholars. It hit the mark and stung. Heaven is more ecstatic over some loser who knows it and gets found than ninety-nine others who are as lost as a ball in high grass and are convinced they're just fine.
Despite attempts to save themselves via the Law, the other 99 sheep were in need of the Good Shepherd as much as the lamb who purposely went off track. They were blind to the Law's true purpose of being their schoolmaster (Gal. ) whose bar was set so high no one would measure up. That was the point. The religious leaders, however, opted for repeated attempts of reaching that goal than accepting their need of a Savior. Jesus, like the shepherd in the story, pursued the lost. He loved the religious folks just the same, but you can't save a drowning man who won't relax and trust his rescuer but fights him.
How about you? Are you the sheep in need of a rescue operation? Does the idea that the lost lamb didn't contribute one iota to its salvation bother you? If so, why? Are you enrolled in or a graduate of The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior? Can you handle life on your own without a shepherd? If you're part of the flock, are you content to let the stragglers fend for themselves, because after all it is their choice? We all need the Shepherd, all of the time. Let's celebrate with Heaven when a lost one is found.