Search the Scriptures: We all like sheep


Jonathan McAnulty - Search the Scriptures



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A question to consider: If you have a hundred sheep, and they all run away, how do you go about getting them back?

Jesus, in Luke 15, tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep. “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; ESV)”

The Parable is an eloquent reminder that God and Christ both care for us, not just collectively, but as individuals. Though God so loved the whole of the world (cf. John 3:16), if even just one had been lost and all the rest of the world had been right in the sight of God, Christ would have died for the salvation of that one single soul.

Yet the idealism of the Parable, eloquent and beautiful as it is, glamorizes the truth of the situation, for there were not ninety-nine souls safe and secure in the arms of God with only a single errant soul wandering lost and alone. Rather the situation was more akin to a complete sheep-insurrection, with all the sheep gone from the fold, running in a hundred different directions and lost in a hundred different places in the wilderness. Indeed, it was worse than this, for it was not a mere hundred lost, but the entirety of mankind.

The Scriptures attest, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” and, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6; ESV).” It was for this reason that the message of Jesus to all was the same, “repent.”

There were some in the days of Christ, just as there are today, who did not feel as if they were lost, as if they did not need repentance. The Pharisees, for instance, felt that their righteousness was sufficient, but Jesus announced that was not the case, saying, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20; ESV).”

Elsewhere, Jesus was likewise clear: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:5; ESV).” All had sinned. All had gone astray. All were in danger of perishing. Therefore all needed to repent.

When Jesus declared that He had come in order to “seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10),” He was not speaking about one or two lost and lonely sheep, but about a whole world full of straying men who had fled from the good shepherd and who were in sore need of being found.

So again, the question: If you have a hundred sheep, and they all run away, how do you go about getting them back? The answer is: one at a time.

Which brings us back to the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Each straying sheep is a lost soul in need of a Savior’s personal attention. Though the world has collectively fled from its Creator, Jesus cares about each one of us by name and He seeks each one of us individually, knowing our condition and our needs. And when we, individually, repent and come to Him, recognizing His loving authority and allowing Him to carry us to safety, He rejoices and celebrates, even though there might yet be ninety-nine other sheep still to be found.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15; ESV).” Jesus died so that we each might be found, but we must come to Him individually, recognizing Him, even as He recognizes us. We all like sheep have gone astray, and we all need to repent and allow Him to find us and save us.

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Jonathan McAnulty

Search the Scriptures

Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.