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The Gift of Repentance

jesus-lost-sheepLuke 15 is the record of three related and beautiful parables of Jesus. The first it the parable of the lost sheep. It is really the parable of the seeking and finding shepherd. The parable is about Jesus.

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?” (Luke 15:3-4)

There is always a surprise in the parables of Jesus. We see it right away in this text. No normal shepherd would risk the lives of the ninety-nine sheep in the open country to look for one lost sheep. A single wolf or bear could destroy the entire flock. This is no normal shepherd! This is Jesus. His business is to rescue the lost. He does what no shepherd would do. He leaves the ninety-nine and goes after you, the lost one. But the surprise grows:

And when he has found it, he lays it one 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.” (Luke 15:5-6)

The shepherd doesn’t return to the flock. He goes home and calls together his friends and neighbors for a party. This is incredibly odd behavior.

I imagine losing my dog. She gets out of the backyard and runs all over town. I chase after her, in the dark and the rain, looking everywhere. I’m not sure “rejoicing” would describe my attitude when I find her. I think it would be some very potent mixture of relief and anger. I certainly don’t think I would go around the neighborhood and gather all the people to come over for drinks because I found my dog. This seems absurd. That is the point. This seeking and finding shepherd is absurdly merciful to the one lost sheep and absurdly happy about finding it.

This, dear friends, is repentance! Jesus teaches, “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 15:7).

The lost sheep is the “sinner who repents.” Amazing. What did the sheep do except wander away from the flock and the shepherd, get lost in the woods to his own great peril, and then be found by the shepherd? It was the shepherd who did all the work. The shepherd searched, found, rescued, picked up, carried home, and gave a party for the sheep. Repentance is being found by Jesus.

Wolfmueller, Bryan Has American Christianity Failed? (97-98)

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