June 14, 2017

Joy after finding the lost

I keep my earrings in a couple of ice cube trays in a drawer. When I put a pair away, both go in the same space. A few weeks ago, I wanted to wear a certain pair, but only one of them was in the space. I was (and still am) mystified. When I put them away, I would have noticed one was missing, but didn’t. So where did it go? I looked in all the spaces of both trays, on the bathroom vanity by the sink, and finally gave up. It didn’t walk off by itself, but I cannot think of anywhere else to look.

We understand losing something and looking for it. This is likely why Jesus used this parable to illustrate His concern for those lost in sin, a far more serious loss than one earring . . .

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 that was lost.’ Just so, 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. (Luke 15:4–7)

In the same story in Matthew, “if he finds it” is used rather than “when he finds it” so I feel a bit better about not finding my earring, but somewhat discouraged about the “if” in relation to lost sinners. Does this mean that not everyone Jesus seeks will be found?

I’ve been told not to use all parts of parables to form doctrines, just the mail idea. This “if” is likely not a vital point, but I digress.

The point is that Jesus cares about those who stray. The ninety-nine, according to the context, are those self-righteous people who figure they do not need Jesus. Interesting that in the parable, the shepherd leaves them alone to fend for themselves while he goes after the lost one.

It’s also interesting that the lost sheep is willing to be carried. I’ve owned a small flock of sheep and cannot imagine even one of them letting any person pick them up and put them across their shoulders. Sheep, like any small animal, would protest with bleating and flailing of limbs.

Perhaps the most delightful part of this story is that the shepherd calls his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. This gives me the image of Jesus calling those who are His people and taking them to safety. It also pictures His joy — a joy that His people experience because He lives in us. That explains the excitement of Christians when a sinner repents. To us, it is just as joyful an event as it is to Jesus and to the angels in heaven.

Jesus, it has been awhile since I’ve found a lost sheep or heard from others of finding a lost sheep. I know it happens and it would be wonderful to experience this special joy far more often. You know the names of those on my heart and prayer list. You know the ones who have wandered away and are lost. I’d love to celebrate with You, not if, but when You bring them home.

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