The Shepherd Seeking the Lost Sheep
James Smith, 1860
The conduct of the Lord Jesus was often misunderstood, and therefore his enemies complained and murmured against him. This was the case, especially with the Pharisees, for self-righteous people are generally very difficult to please! Sometimes he vindicated himself by a parable. Once when many publicans and sinners drew near to hear him, the Pharisees and Scribes murmured against him, calling him the friend of publicans and sinners; but he vindicated himself, and justified his conduct by this beautiful little parable.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not 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!" Luke 15:4-6
1. Here is a representation of our character and condition. We are like sheep, naturally dissatisfied, prone to wander, and forgetful of God. All have an inward craving for something they have not; all are restless and uneasy; all have forgotten God their maker and owner. We are far from — the pasture provided, the fold, and the good Shepherd. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to his own way. We are strangers and aliens to God. Yes, we have wandered into sin and folly! We have turned our backs on God and his ways! We have run into imminent danger! We are far from God by wicked works. We are lost, and lost forever — if left to ourselves.
2. Here is a representation of the character and conduct of the Shepherd. He is caring, kind, and diligent. He cares for each one of his sheep, nor ever ceases caring for it — until it is safe. He is kind — and with loving eye he watches it, and with loving heart he yearns over it. He is diligent — and therefore if but one goes astray — he goes after it. He watches over the whole flock, and over every separate sheep. He perseveres in his attentions, until every one is eternally placed out of danger. He goes after every wanderer, and searches for it until he finds it. He takes it up in his arms, and lays it on his shoulder. He carries it right home, and fills heaven and earth with joy at its restoration. All his conduct towards it — is gentle, kind, and loving. He acquires the character of the good Shepherd — for he has even laid down his life for his sheep.
How highly Jesus prizes his sheep! He will not lose one of them. Wander where they will — he goes after them. Cost him what it may — he will recover and restore them. This is his glory, "Not one of them is lost!" What time and labor he spends on them. Time! From eternity his heart and his thoughts have been set on them! His mind has been full of them. Never for one moment can he forget them; nor does he think anything too hard to undertake for them. What patience and long-suffering he exercises towards them. No one else could bear what Jesus has. No one else could love as Jesus did. When their conduct was at the worst, he cried, "How can I give you up?" And he would sooner give up himself to suffer, bleed, and die — than part with them!
What amazing condescension he displays in dealing with them. He took their nature — that he may understand their case, sympathize with their infirmities, and make an atonement for their sins!
The reason why they all arrive safe at home is to be found in the vigilance of the Shepherd's eye, the length of the Shepherd's arm, the strength of the Shepherd's shoulder, and the veracity of the Shepherd's word: "They shall never perish!"