"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:3-7
I love the parables of Jesus. Jesus was the greatest story teller who ever lived, and more importantly, His stories had an eternal truth and significance to them. In the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:1-2 tells us that Jesus was surrounded by tax collectors and sinners. He was also surrounded by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The tax collectors and sinners were there because they wanted to hear what Jesus had to say; they were prepared and ready to receive His words. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, however, were there to "mutter" to one another about Jesus. They wanted to know why Jesus was talking to tax collectors and sinners and why He was eating with them. They showed what was truly in their hearts: religious pride and self-righteousness. They truly believed they were better than these tax collectors and sinners. Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep so that the everyone would understand what really mattered more than anything else: repentance. Repentance has to do with being aware of our own sinfulness, taking ownership of it. Repentance has to do with approaching a righteous and almighty God with humility and surrendering to His authority. We must remember what Jesus said in Luke 19:10. He said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." The Shepherd in the parable knew that the ninety-nine sheep in HIs pasture were safe, but the one which was lost was in grave danger. The one sheep had tremendous value, and the Shepherd pursued this lost sheep until He found it. When the lost sheep was found, a celebration and rejoicing took place! In the parable, Jesus concluded with these important words: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Jesus came to seek out sinners. Jesus came to save sinners. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were so worried about their own cleanliness that they practiced religious pride and self-righteousness rather than practicing repentance. Jesus wasn't worried about their muttering, their accusations, and their cleanliness. He was there to meet with sinners and save them. Jesus wasn't looking for cleanliness; He was looking for repentance.
As Christ followers, we must practice what truly matters to God: repentance. We must not practice religious pride and self-righteousness. Being Christ followers doesn't make us better than anyone else; being Christ followers means we are forgiven and set free from the bondage and the penalty of sin. We are empowered and enabled to live and to love as Christ did. We should practice repentance daily, and we should encourage repentance for others. However, we don't do that by bashing and judging them or looking down upon them. We do that by loving them and demonstrating personal and consistent repentance ourselves. And with repentance comes rejoicing. The question we need to answer today is are we more like the tax collectors and sinners who are aware and humble and ready to surrender to Jesus in repentance, or are we more like the prideful and self-righteous Pharisees and teachers of the law who are muttering about Jesus and sinners?