Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
“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? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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!’ 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.
Jesus was magnetic in His ministry, His truth, love, and affection attracted those who needed Him the most, the supposed dregs of society. In addition to beggars and prostitutes, He reached out to tax collectors who were most hated by the Jewish people. They were considered traitors, akin to our modern-day mobsters, through the collection of taxes, of which they kept a percentage of the money collected and sent the rest to Rome. This made them very wealthy at the expense of their fellow countrymen.
Jesus’ open arms to these “types” of people greatly angered the local religious leaders. The Pharisees avoided as much as possible these same people, even pulling in their robes to ensure a sinner didn’t touch them.
How did Jesus respond to the Jewish leaders? By providing a view that demonstrated His unending love on earth and the amazing result of repentant sinners in the heavenly realm. The parable provides two key pieces of information:
- Pharisees always pulled back from the sinner, requiring them to intently reach out through legalistic channels and rituals. Jesus instead reaches out to the lost. He earnestly yearns for the sinner, much like shepherds feel for the lost sheep of their flock and will go to any length to find them. He is reaching out, searching, urging us to accept Him as our master. This was echoed by the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
- There is a celebration in heaven every time a sinner repents. There are myriads, likely millions, of angels in heaven. They are amazed and awed when we come to repentance. They understand how incredible the gift of salvation is.
This parable clearly demonstrates the desire and unending love for sinners by our Lord. We have received the most amazing gift of salvation, even the angels get it. Imagine how many people are coming to repentance around the world at any moment and what a celebration it must be in heaven. We should be living every moment of our lives in confidence, knowing just how big a gift this is and how precious we are to our Lord.