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The Pastor's Blog

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The sun was shining in Capernaum, the birds were singing their melodies, and the leaves on the fig trees were fluttering as a gentle breeze wafted in from the waters of Galilee. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ ” (Matthew 18:1).

Did Jesus cringe at the disciple’s self-important pride and arrogance? The disciples must have been wondering what powerful position they would hold in the coming kingdom. In fact, James and John hoped to be seated in the places of highest honor (Mark 10:37). “Who is greatest?”

Jesus answered their inquiry, but not in the way the disciples had hoped. Jesus “called a small child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me’ ” (Matthew 18:2-5).

With the little boy standing at His side, Jesus told His disciples a parable. “What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (Matthew 18:12-14).

On another day, with different circumstances, in a different setting, Jesus told the same parable. This time, “the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’ ” (Luke 15:1-2).

To the contentious crowd of religious do-gooders and sincere seekers, Jesus said, “What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).

Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14) with many sheep in his flocks and folds. According to Jesus’ parable, He had a hundred sheep that grazed in His “green pastures… beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). But, tragically, one little lamb went missing. Did the little guy fall into a ravine? Did he just wander off, aimlessly looking for greener grass? What happened? Was he spooked by a predator? The Good Shepherd immediately left the ninety-nine and went to rescue the one lost lamb.

In Matthew’s account, the lost sheep is representative of a child. Jesus loves little kids! In Luke’s account, the lost sheep is representative of a tax collector or sinner. Just as He loves an innocent child, Jesus loves the lost, the broken, the weary, the wandering lamb that has lost the way.

Like the lost lamb, I’m dumb, dirty, and defenseless. I’m the lost sheep, and Jesus, the “Great Shepherd” (Hebrews 13:20), came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Hallelujah!

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