Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, July 17, 2006

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.


  • It would appear to refer to the backsliding believer, rather than the unbeliever. The lost one was already part of the flock.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/17/2006 3:09 PM  

  • Matthew,
    I think that is definately the obvious application. But ... what about the immediate audience? What was he saying to them? That is what I sm trying to get to.

    These tax collectors were not believers who had backslid from the Christ.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/17/2006 3:39 PM  

  • Yes, I suppose some reference to the national position of Israel and its need for repentance is indicated.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/17/2006 3:51 PM  

  • I really feel like posting a view of this that I don't take, just to see what kind of response I would get. I think I will restrain myself, however, and say that I think you're probably quite right that the parable can be applied to both Israel and individuals.

    I like how Jesus ate with the taxcollectors and sinners. The sick are the ones in need of a physician, so that's where the physician goes. What a merciful God!

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at 7/18/2006 7:12 AM  

  • Angie,
    Hopefully some commenter will post an alternate view. I am curious ... and I hoped they could do my homework for me. :~)
    I like that about Jesus too. He was here to help - to seek and to save that which was lost - Adam's lost race.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/18/2006 9:05 AM  

  • Thought provoking post, Rose. I think it is helpful to consider the audience: complaining Pharisees and scribes. Those who thought they were better than everyone else, they were ones who needed no repentance (cf. 5:31-2, 16:15; 18:9). Their complaint that Jesus was going after the lowly is directly addressed in the story. Jesus goes after the outcast. IMO, the story only makes sense in the context if the whole sheepfold is lost. The language that indicates righteousness and justness is sarcastically referring to the scribes and Pharisees.

    5:31-2 "Jesus answer and said to them [scribes and Pharisees], 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'" We certainly wouldn't say that the scribes and Pharisees in this context needed no physician or repentance.

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 7/18/2006 1:39 PM  

  • I always thought the cool thing about this parable is that it's the sheep who got in trouble and wandered away from the pack that got the undivided attention of the shepherd. All the other self-righteous follower sheep just wander around, doing nothing, just being typical sheep. I think the Pharisees fit the mold of the guys who never need help, the fallen sheep, the sinner, is the one whom the shepherd goes and gets and then loves. Lesson: make God work to get ya! (Not really)

    By Blogger jeff, at 7/19/2006 8:16 AM  

  • I think He was referring directly to the Pharasees, calling them self-righteous, but I also think He was condemning general "religiosity" which keeps finding its wasy into the hearts of people who should be, but aren't, following God in a loving manner.

    I like your perspective, though, as I always do.

    By Blogger Joe, at 7/19/2006 8:32 AM  

  • Hi Jonathan,
    So you think when Jesus said, "... ninety nine just persons who need no repentance" he was being sarcastic? Hmmm ... I am not so sure - because in this parable He talks about a fold of sheep in which 99 were safe and were with the Shepherd. I don't sense sarcasm in that. But ... I do see your point about the Pharisees being ill.
    Actually, I want to address the 99 sheep when I get to the end of the chapter - maybe you will come back then - it will be the post after the next.

    Hi Jeff!
    Good to see you - your thoughts are much appreciated! You have pointed out something I hadn't thought about.

    Hi Joe -
    It is very good to see you back. I hope you and yours are well. I think you are saying that the attitudes of the Pharisees were not what they should be about people turning toward God. They should be happy, like the angels in heaven ... if they were truly godly - because God is happy about it! I go along with your sentiments precisely.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/19/2006 10:03 PM  

  • Rose,
    Parables can be difficult, and I think they contain various applications.

    It's very edifying to hear your thought and get the perspectives that your COM mentors offer.

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 7/20/2006 6:45 AM  

  • Rose, yes I think that is in line with the audience he is addressing. Let me ask this: if the 99 were saved, wouldn't that imply that the scribes and Pharisees he was addressing were saved?

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 7/20/2006 10:25 AM  

  • Jonathan,
    I see what you are saying. Listen, first of all, I said that I am not so sure this is about "salvation" but about not "living in sin". So, if I look at it that way, then it could be said that those Pharisees did not need the kind of repentance that the tax collectors and sinners needed. The Pharisees had a more hidden sin because their outward behavior seemed to be upright.

    It just doesn't make sense to me that Jesus would refer to a shepherd who lost one sheep and 99 were safe, if he really meant to say that the whole sheepfold was lost. That seems a contorted view of the parable. I don't think he was getting at the lost state of all mankind, but at specific people who obviously wander from that which is right in their living. I could be wrong, though - it has happened before. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/20/2006 11:35 AM  

  • Thanks, J. Wendell!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/20/2006 11:36 AM  

  • And actually, Jonathan,
    You said it is helpful to consider the audience, and I would say that I think it is helpful to consider that audience's specific objection to Jesus on this occasion. They were criticising him for being kind to those who were living in very blatant sin. I really think that is what He is addressing - their specific objection.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/20/2006 12:34 PM  

  • The Pharisees complained that Jesus ate and drank with sinners.

    This is a national parable that has specific church age application.

    All of the sheep are Israel.

    The one who went astray are the sinners who Jesus ate and drank with.

    God actively SEEKS His own wayward people!

    The three parables in this section (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son) are Luke's Magnum Opus, nay, the Bible's Ultimate Teaching on Repentance.

    Repentance is the restoration to harmonious relations between the lost (not as in eternally, but temporally) sinner, who nevertheless, is one of God's own.

    I think that you have it right on, Rose.

    But Jesus, being the Prophet Par-Excellence, knowing that His words would have greater application than to just those Jews who were affixed to His Israeli ministry, intended to give greater application to the Church in which He would build.

    God loves His own.

    Those who have, as an absolutely free gift, appropriated eternal life by simple faith in Christ ARE God's own people.

    When a Christian has backslidden, God actively seeks the restoration unto harmonious relations between Himself and the wayward sinning Christian.

    And there is joy in heaven.


    God is the Father who not only awaits the return of, but actively seeks the restoration of, His children from their backslidden and profligate behaviors which, they have for a length of time, found themselves wallowing in.

    There is joy in heaven when a true brother, who has been away in prodigal living, returns to the intimate fellowship of his Father's house.


    By Blogger Antonio, at 7/20/2006 10:55 PM  

  • Antonio,
    You have built out on Matthew's comment in reference to where we are at here and now, whilst I was just focusing on what Christ meant to those specific people He was adressing. I would agree with your comments and Matthew's about the current day application.

    Now, Antonio, I did NOT post on the lost (prodigal) son yet, so wait and see what I have to say about that. Don't steal my thunder or jump my gun! ;~)
    I do agree that these three parables go together.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/21/2006 11:10 AM  

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