Easter 2015 was particularly memorable for the Davis clan.
We had new baby sheep on our little farm, and I got the bright idea to take one of those sweet little lambs to our Easter celebration at my mom’s house.
Nothing says Easter like kids in their Sunday best taking a photo op with a baby sheep, right?
My nieces and nephews were smitten with the lamb, so much so they decided to take him for a walk. You can probably guess where this is going, even if they
couldn’t—the lamb got loose. A herd of children screaming and running toward it made him bolt, and the lamb got lost in the woods.
The parable of the lost sheep reminds me that He pursued me when I
was still running away from Him in glad rebellion.
Once they realized they weren’t in trouble, the kids handled the escape pretty well, until someone mentioned a coyote. All of the kids simultaneously burst
into tears. It was a symphony of screaming and crying. Not even another chocolate bunny could console them. What started out as a very Norman Rockwell-like
holiday quickly downgraded to a scene more closely resembling an episode of Jerry Springer.
For more than two days we searched for that little lamb. His mama stood out in the field and called for him until she was hoarse. I told my boys he was
likely a goner. They cried some more. Then someone had the bright idea to put our plight on Facebook. I never saw the post, but I am sure it went something
Easter lamb led to the slaughter by adorable children in church clothes.
I wasn’t sure what broadcasting the bad news on social media would do, but then we got a crazy phone call.
“Did you lose a sheep?”
“Yep, we sure did.”
“My husband was out cutting wood, and he swore he saw a baby lamb. I told him, ‘I read about him on Facebook.'”
In no time at all, my husband raced over to the home of the good-natured Facebook friend who called. They had, in fact, found our lost sheep. Against all
odds, he had made it five miles from my mom’s home. All the cousins were called. The children rejoiced. But then . . . the very best part of the story
My husband opened the gate, and that little lamb ran to his mama. As he nursed for the first time in more than two days, his little tail wagged at super
Miraculously, the lost sheep had been rescued and brought home.
The Original Lost Sheep
Our little lamb was not the first sheep to be lost. His reunion with his mama was not the happiest ever after. Check out the similar story Jesus told in
Luke 15:1–7. (Don’t skim it. It’s only seven short verses.)
Now the tax collectors and the sinners were all drawing near to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and
eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “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.”
After the lost sheep incident at our house, this story took on new life for me. As someone who has, in fact, lost a sheep and looked earnestly, desperately
for it, I can feel the weight of what Jesus was teaching.
The parable of the lost sheep is likely a familiar one to you, just like it was to me before our little lamb made a break for it. But it’s taken on new
life in my heart. Would you mind looking at it closely with me in case God wants it to do the same in yours?
In fact, let’s do more than just read this parable. Let’s study it from three angles, like a gemologist trying to discover the exact value of a precious
Angle #1: The Lost Sheep
Who am I in the parable of the lost sheep? I’m the lost sheep.
Well, actually, I’m not lost anymore. In fact, I’ve been “found” by Jesus for two decades now. It’s been a long time since He rescued me from my wayward
ways and brought me into the fold. Perhaps that’s why I have spiritual amnesia. It’s so easy for me to forget how desperately lost I was. I need frequent
reminders that Jesus sought me out when I was still separated from Him by my sin.
Romans 5:8 says it this way: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When my Type-AA, achievement-driven side thinks I have to earn God’s love or acceptance, the parable of the lost sheep reminds me that He pursued me when I
was still running away from Him in glad rebellion.
Jesus is delighted by His children, especially when they run to Him.
When I doubt if He really loves me, the parable of the lost sheep reminds me that He sees me like a shepherd sees a sheep he’d do anything to rescue. He
rejoices over me. He carried the weight of my sin on His shoulders as He hung on the cross.
In hindsight, it was a little silly how worked up we got about our little lost lamb. He didn’t even have a name. (Farm animals are like that.) He didn’t
hold much value. More lambs will be born again soon on the farm. It’s kinda like the fact that I am only one of six billion people on the planet right now
and countless people since the beginning of time. But we desperately wanted that lamb to come home. God desperately wanted me to come home, too. He feels
the same way about you.
Jesus would hammer this point home just minutes after He told the parable of the lost sheep with the parable of the prodigal son.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him
We were all once prodigal sons and daughters. Jesus eagerly watched and waited for our return to Him like an expectant father waiting for his wayward son.
I need frequent reminders of this truth.
Angle #2: Jesus
Jesus, of course, is the shepherd in this story. Pay attention to how Jesus describes the tender way He cared for the lost sheep and the great lengths He
went to celebrate its homecoming. Perhaps it takes seeing the homecoming of a real lost sheep to grasp Jesus’ description of Himself here, but the bottom
line is this: Jesus is delighted by His children, especially when they run to Him.
Perhaps you need reminded that Jesus is a good shepherd. Here’s some tender truth just for you.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isa. 40:11).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4).
Angle #3: The Pharisees and Scribes
While the parable of the lost sheep certainly has a warm and fuzzy quality about it, the original listeners would have found it a bitter pill to swallow.
Backtrack to verses 1–2 for the original reason Jesus told this story.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and
eats with them.”
The Pharisees, or religious folks of the day, were rubbing shoulders with sinners and they didn’t like it. They really didn’t like that Jesus received
sinners with a welcoming attitude that said, “Come, have a seat at my table.” So they grumbled . . .
“How dare He show compassion to them!”
“Doesn’t He know what they have done!”
“How can a good God put up with such nonsense?”
When I really study Jesus’ story, I can see myself standing there in their judgmental shoes. For me those thoughts look like this:
- “What is he doing in church? I heard he had an affair.”
- “Why is God blessing them? They don’t live clean like we do.”
- “Why is God blessing her work? She is not as good of a person as I am.”
- “When is God going to intervene with that group of people? They are a stain on our culture.”
When I dare to point the finger at the sin of others, I need the reminder that I was once a lost little lamb, helpless, and vulnerable to an enemy who
“prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). I didn’t save myself from that desperate situation. I couldn’t. Jesus made a
way for me to come home and then came looking for me to show me the path back.
Gospel Gratitude vs. Grumbling
The parable of the lost sheep is really the story of the gospel. When I am judgmental toward others, or secretly wish that God would be stingy with grace,
I’m just like the ones who grumbled because He ate His lunch with sinners.
The parable of the lost sheep is really the story of the gospel.
Instead of grumbling, God calls me to gratitude that overflows by helping me see the lost through gospel-colored lenses.
The lost will act lost. They are separated from their Shepherd after all. But He is desperately searching for them. He is already planning a party in the
hopes they will return.
- As you look at the parable of the lost sheep again, where do you see yourself in the story?
- What makes you “grumble” about the grace of God?
- What shift does it cause in your heart to remember how it felt to be lost?