The Lost Sheep Speaks

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“So [Jesus] told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:3–7).
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
Good morning! My name is Hamartolos—a Greek name that means “The Sinner.” That’s me! I’m the lost sheep from Jesus’ parable. From the time I was a little lamb, I’ve always been independent and tough. A rugged individualist, you might say. My Mama called me “stubborn,” but I argued I was not stubborn, just obstinate. She used to warn me that if I didn’t straighten up I’d end up in trouble. I guess she was right.
It all began gradually. At first, I wandered a few steps from the rest of the flock—munching on grass here and noticing a juicy mouthful over there. I saw that the others were gathered together a long way from me. But I knew that I had not really separated myself from them. I could go back at any time. The Good Shepherd didn’t need to worry about me. I could handle it.
Then I got further occupied with myself and my thoughts, my pleasures and my priorities, my plans and my purposes. Of course, that takes time and effort—time away from the other sheep and the Good Shepherd. (Though at the time, I hardly thought Him to be good. Rather, the longer I stayed away and the farther I strayed away, the more it seemed He was Mr. Rule Maker.) 
Anyway, my pursuits also took away my concentration from what I had been hearing from that Big Boss Man and what the other sheep heard, believed, and did. Instead of doing what He wanted, I became obsessed with working my own way from one field to the next, just doing whatever pleased me. Even though I couldn’t always see the flock from where I was, I knew the general direction and was always able to find my way back by nightfall. But after a while, the adrenaline rush from my daytime adventures started to wear off.
I remember very well the day I decided to strike out on my own. The Good Shepherd had the whole flock—all one hundred of us—out in the open country—a wilderness area. I have to tell you: I was tired of that place. Sure, there was nice pool of water to drink from. But you had to walk a long way to get to it. And there was grass, but you had to work pretty hard to find it. Besides, I was getting tired of eating the same stuff, day after day. Variety is the spice of life, you know.
I thought of the lush, green pasture on the mountainside that we had gone to the summer before. Now, that was living! The grass was so thick you could just stand in one spot and eat until your belly got so full you couldn’t move. But that was all right, because it made a nice soft mat to lie on, too!
And the water! Why, it must be the best water in the world. So cool and refreshing! And so still that you could see your reflection in it while you were drinking. So quiet, you didn’t have to worry about being swept away by the current. On a hot day, you could just stand in it and soak your hot, tired feet.
Ohhh! It was heavenly! It had everything that a sheep could ever need! I couldn’t figure out why the Shepherd hadn’t taken us there yet. I was tired of waiting, so I decided to go by myself. I didn’t bother to ask anyone else to go along with me. They’re all a bunch of wimps. They would’ve tried to talk me out of it, or let the Shepherd know I was missing before I got far enough away. Besides, I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Or so I thought.
Shortly after midnight, the shepherd seemed to be sound asleep. So, I quietly crept away and headed toward greener pastures. It was a perfect night for traveling. The sky was perfectly clear. You could see the twinkling stars—especially the North Star that pointed the way toward the mountains. The full moon lit the way before me so I could avoid the scattered rocks and spiny cactuses. I made good time, and before daybreak I was several miles away from the Shepherd and flock       
The first few days were a great adventure. The path was well worn and easy to follow. I was too busy enjoying my freedom and independence to miss Mama or the rest of the flock, and it was nice not having to follow that Shepherd all the time. Though the grass wasn’t as plentiful as the mountainside, there were all sorts of new ones to try along the way. I thought I remembered how to get to the mountain pasture. There was a narrow path you had to follow. But as I tried to make my way along the path of righteousness, I found it wasn’t so easy to do by yourself. You come to so many forks in the road where you have to choose the right way to go. One mistake, one wrong choice, will get you completely lost in a short time.
And that’s what happened to me. I guess, because the Good Shepherd had always been the one who led us to the pasture, I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the right route, and I soon found myself in trouble. I was hurt and alone, and I must admit, I was really scared. I thought about the rest of the flock and the Shepherd, but I no longer had any idea where they were. I was lost… absolutely lost. All I could do was bleat like a lost sheep. My only hope was to be found.
But think about it. Why would anyone find me? Who would sacrifice the time and effort to search for one stubborn, stupid little sheep, who carelessly and purposely wandered away? Who would care enough for me to risk his life to find me? I could only think of one… the one I used to know as the Good Shepherd. But He probably didn’t even know I was lost. I had always been wandering. He wouldn’t miss one sheep when He had ninety-nine others to look after. Would He?
Just when I had completely given up, I heard His voice calling out my name. Can you believe it! It was my Master and He was calling for me! But then my guilty conscience started getting to me. I wondered, “Why is coming for me?” I thought there could only be one reason…vengeance. He was going to find me and to make me pay for what I had done. I was afraid that if He found me, He would really let me know what trouble was all about. He’d make me an example to all the other sheep of what happens when you run away from Him. So I tried to hide from Him, like the first sheep, Adam did, when he covered his shame with leaves and hid in Paradise when he heard God calling for him.
But the Master knew where to look and there was no hiding from Him. He found me, bent down to me, and to my amazement, said, “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are no longer Hamartolos—The Sinner, but you shall be called Dikaios—The Righteous One. You are Mine.”
He had not come to me as the Rule-Maker, but as the Law-Fulfiller. This was the Good Shepherd, who came to seek and to save the lost. The One who came in grace and truth to bind up the broken-hearted and to release those held captive by sin and that most dangerous of predators—Satan.
The Good Shepherd’s nail-pierced hands lifted me up from a certain death. Just as He once joyfully taken up His cross and carried it in my place, He joyfully picked me up, set me on His shoulder, and set off to return me to the flock. I understood that I had been restored to Him and He rejoiced in that restoration.
But as I rode on His broad shoulders, I’ll admit, it was more than a bit scary. He was tall and it was a long way to the ground below. If He dropped me, I would probably die on the jagged rocks below. But His strong arms held me tightly. His deep voice assured me, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”
I must tell you, it was a breath-taking ride, but I knew I was in good hands. The winding path we took looked unfamiliar, but I trusted that the Good Shepherd knew the way home. But then as I became more comfortable, I started to wonder what the other sheep would think of me. I was scared of what they might say to me…how they would treat me…and whether or not they would accept me back into the fold. After all, my wandering had affected them, too!
But as we came near the village, the Master called out to His friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with Me; I have found My sheep that was lost.” And amazingly, they rejoiced at my return. They were genuinely happy that I was back! And I was welcomed as though I had never left! Fellow sheep, Jesus declares, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Now that may well be an account of your life with God. Maybe you’ve wandered away from the Good Shepherd’s flock. Maybe you got lost, and now you would like to come back. Please do! You don’t have to be afraid! Just call out to Him and He’ll joyfully carry you back to the flock in His loving arms, too! The rest of us sheep will join in the rejoicing.
Some of you maybe have never strayed so far away from the Savior as I did. Maybe you’ve never personally experienced being so separated from God that you thought you would never be found. Maybe you can’t recall a time in your life when you were not a Christian. That’s cause for rejoicing as well.
You see—you were lost! You may not even have realized it, but, at one time, you were also a sheep separated from the Good Shepherd by sin. You were a poor, miserable sinner, too! We all were! We all still are! But that’s who Jesus came for—sinners such as you and me. Lost sheep, who couldn’t find our own way to our heavenly home, no matter how hard we tried. And not only did He come to find us—He gave up Himself into death on the cross as payment for our sins.
Seven centuries before Jesus’ birth the prophet Isaiah wrote of our plight:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is lead to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide with Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:6-12).
The Shepherd makes Himself one with His rebellious, wayward sheep. The Lamb of God takes our sins upon Himself and pays for them on the cross with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Having raised Himself from the grave, He shares His eternal inheritance with you and me and all who will receive Him by faith. Redeemed, forgiven, and accounted righteous by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we are designated “His offspring.”  
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day complained, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” And do you know what? The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were right! They were absolutely correct in what they had declared. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, receives sinners like you and me, and He eats with us!
As His Holy Spirit works through the Word, the risen and ascended Jesus invites you to draw near to Him and believe in Him. He gently calls you by name and leads you to the quiet waters of Baptism. He forgives your sins and restores your souls through the voice of His undershepherds. He guards and keeps you with the rod and staff of His Word—the Law that accuses and corrects, the Gospel that comforts and empowers. The Good Shepherd sets a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He gives you His very own body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins and to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul unto eternal life. All of this He does solely out of His grace and mercy without any worthiness on your part.
And, in turn, the Good Shepherd calls you to help look for the other lost sheep that need to be found and brought into His flock. He calls you to share His blessings with other sheep that are not in His sheep pen yet. He calls you to rejoice along with the angels over each and every lost sheep that is found. For that is what you once were, too! Indeed, even today there is rejoicing in heaven every time you repent—as you confess your sin and trust in His absolution. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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