The major theme of the Book of Luke is found in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This mission of Christ had been set before the foundations of the World – to search for and rescue those who are separated from their Creator due to the ravages of sin.
Earlier in Luke 15, the metaphor of sheep had been introduced to establish a gridwork of this work.
Luke 15:1-2 sets the stage: “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
As was characteristic of His ministry Christ is beginning to draw a crowd, and the religiosity is condemning Jesus for the company He is keeping. In their estimation it is not fitting that a person seeking to be holy would associate with the unworthy of society, much less break bread together. But, in the strategy of search and rescue, this is one of His favorite tactics.
Luke 15:3-7 communicates the message: “So He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on 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 which was lost!”’ ‘I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’”
Logically speaking, Christ uses these words to describe the act of redemption through the shepherd paradigm. The sheep in the open field are accounted for, but one has strayed and is in jeopardy. This sheep has taken to his own devices to follow a course which does not lead to the destination prescribed by the Shepherd. A loss of one percent is too high for the Good Shepherd – every sheep entrusted to His care is of utmost effort to locate, and bring back to the fold, safe. The Shepherd sets out to locate the errant sheep and imposes His grace upon him, resting him upon His shoulders to return home.
The one lost has been found; he has been brought to his rightful position and thus, the true Shepherd rejoices in that feat. It doesn’t stop there, but the Shepherd invites the community together to celebrate the rescue of the one who was headed to destruction. The “99” have been celebrated at their own rescue, but now, it is the time for the new addition to the Flock to be recognized.
The Hundred, the 100% is complete. All those within the scope of the search and rescue have been accounted for–each one is secure and under the sovereign care of the Good Shepherd.
The lesson to the religious elite is a reminder to us all that salvation was meant to be shared. Relationship with the Creator was meant to be enjoyed across the broad spectrum of humanity, even those who may be considered by some to be unredeemable.