Seeking the Lost Sheep—Why Did Jesus Use Parable?

By Qiu Hong

Whenever reading these lines of Scripture: “How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mat 18:12-14), I feel very moved in my heart. From these verses, I understood that God doesn’t want to have any of us be tempted by Satan and thus keep far from Him, indulge in the pursuit of money, fame and gain, covet worldly things and carnal pleasure, and no longer have any place for God in our hearts. Instead, He hopes that we can worship Him and live under His blessings and promise. For thousands of years, God has always been looking for those who worship Him and belong to Him, and at the same time redeeming those who believe in Him but are distant from Him. This is God’s eager will. God compared Himself to the shepherd, every true believer in Him the sheep, through which He told us that He won’t leave anyone as long as they are the sheep that belong to Him. In the past, I only had these understandings of this parable. Until one day when I saw the word of God on a gospel website I understood the profound meaning within it and gained a greater knowledge of God’s desire to save mankind.

God’s word says: “Mat 18:12–14 How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

This is a metaphor—what kind of feeling do people get from this passage? The way this metaphor is expressed utilizes a figure of speech in human language; it’s something within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that it wasn’t really consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered this passage in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate metaphor to express the voice of His heart in humanity. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep is lost, He will do whatever it takes to find it. This represents a principle of God’s work among mankind this time in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, to express His will. He explained or ‘translated’ to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart.

the parable of the lost sheep

From the word of God, I understood that through the parable, “a man seeks the lost sheep,” the Lord Jesus used the example that we can understand to describe God’s eager desire to save people, so that we can experience God’s sincere feelings of wanting mankind to be able to return to the proper path after going astray. When a person strays far from God, God’s intention in wanting to find him is the same as the man’s intention in looking for the lost sheep; when this person is recovered and returns to God again, God feels the joy which is like that of the man finding his lost sheep. But by giving this example, the Lord Jesus not only meant that He preferred the lost sheep to the ninety and nine that did not go astray, but also expressed God’s love and expectation of mankind. God values us and hopes that we can turn to Him and come before Him to worship Him. Through this parable, God allows us to understand His love for mankind and appreciate the great weight of us in His heart.

Apart from this, God also made clear to us His resolve and attitude of saving people and never giving up until He gains them. Back then, to save mankind from the danger of being executed by the law, God carried out the work of crucifixion and used His own life to rescue all of mankind; God has been leading Christians to spread His gospel for thousands of years only so that those who belong to Him can return to His presence; when we believers sometimes are far from Him because of the temptations of the evil trends in society, God will create different environments and use His words, the movement of the Holy Spirit, and the support and help of the brothers and sisters in the church to make us return before Him; and so on. We can see from these facts that God does pay a painstaking price to save mankind and that He wants us to understand His will toward the people He intends to save.

For instance: When I first started to believe in God, I was so tempted by social evil trends that I just worked hard to earn money, without regular gatherings. Just when I was about to be lost in the social trends, God arranged some situations to awake my heart: At that time, both my work and my personal life didn’t go smoothly and things always went wrong. This made me feel that living like that was so miserable and tiring, and it seemed that no one could alleviate the emptiness I felt in my heart. At last I thought of God and the story of the return of the prodigal son, so I came before God once again, admitted my sins and repented to Him. I was thankful that God didn’t abandon me but gave me one more opportunity. This experience made me genuinely realize that when I strayed away from God, God didn’t give up His salvation for me, but arranged some situations to awaken my heart so that I could experience God’s sincere desire to save man, and His true and real love for us. Just as the word of God says: “Only the Creator has pity on this mankind. Only the Creator shows this mankind tenderness and affection. Only the Creator holds a true, unbreakable affection for this mankind. Likewise, only the Creator can bestow mercy on this mankind and cherish all of His creation.

Furthermore, the Lord Jesus used the parable to let us understand that God working in the flesh is much easier for people to come into contact with than working in the Spirit. From the perspective of man, He can use human language and the parable as well as the most understandable words to clearly tell us His intention and express His attitude toward mankind, closing the distance between Him and us, making us feel that the incarnate God is amiable and venerable, and making us no longer feel fear just like the people who heard God’s Spirit speaking. For example, the Lord Jesus clearly told us, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” “Judge not,” “I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven,” “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” and “Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;” besides, He also rebuked and cursed the Pharisees when He said: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”; and so on. From these words, we know clearly God’s requirements and His attitude toward people. These effects cannot be achieved by God’s spiritual body. So, how did people feel when God’s spirit spoke directly to them? It is recorded in the Bible, “And all the people saw the thunder, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said to Moses, Speak you with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exo 20:18-19). “Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spoke to him” (Jhn 12:28-29). We can see from this that when God’s spirit spoke directly to man, people couldn’t understand what God was saying, but would merely be too afraid to get close to Him, and even be in danger. But when God becomes flesh and uses human language to speak to us, we will not have such feelings. As God leads us in the flesh, it is easy for us to relate to Him, and we can also clearly understand His requirements for us, and know who He loves and who He detests, and how to believe in and worship Him and practice His words.

Through the Lord Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, I have a much deeper understanding of God’s love and intention. Have you also realized God’s will to save us from this parable?

Maybe you also like to read: Can All the Believers in God Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Chat With Us!

If you want to go deeper into Bible study and learn the news of the Lord’s return, you’re welcome to contact us at any time.

Chat live with us!
Bible Reading Made Easy App: Read the Bible Anytime and Walk With the Lord
Free app available for iOS and Android