Luke 15 - The Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.What exactly is being said here? At face value, it would almost appear that Jesus is telling the Pharisees and scribes that they need no repentance. Could it be?
I think this verse is directly aimed at Israel ... specifically, those self-righteous Israelites. I don't believe it is about being born again and I don't think it addresses the need of every man to be born again or it wouldn't use this phrase, IMO: "ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." I believe it is about outward behavior. The passage begins by saying that Jews with very blatantly bad behavior (sinners and tax collectors) were drawing near to Jesus. Then, those Jews who were held up as model of good behavior started gasping and pointing. “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
In the following paragraph, I will put my thoughts in parentheses.
Jesus asks them:
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, (the house of Israel)
if he loses one of them, (the Jews that were blatantly sinful)
does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, (those that were faithful Jews)
and go after the one which is lost, (the Jews that were blatantly sinful) until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (And there Jesus sits in the company of these sinners who were interested in turning toward His teaching. I am sure as a shepherd of Israel, he was rejoicing.)
7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.Those who are walking uprightly in God's ways, don't need to repent of sin. I don’t think Jesus is speaking of sin in the same way that he does in other passages. He is not teaching right now on the utter sinfulness of the human heart, but on the outward manifestation of sin – bad behavior, sinful acts, sinful living. However, when a person who has his back turned to God’s ways turns around, this is a very joyous occasion in heaven because that person has been snatched from the allure of sin and the destructive nature of living outside of God’s will and ways.
This is how I interpret this passage. I haven’t had time to look up any teachers’ interpretations, which is what I intended to do for a few of these posts, so I just decided to get my own thoughts out there. Perhaps the next post on the parables will be a little more comprehensive.