Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The story of the lost sheep is one of the most beloved of Jesus’ parables. How encouraging to hear, as a sinner in need of continual repentance, that God pursued you while you were still lost. Surely, you delight in the thought that God chases after you.
God’s movement toward you is profoundly personal. God was delighted to choose you before the creation of the world and embrace you into the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. And based on this parable, it is correct for you to perceive yourselves as being sought after individually by God. Yet what if your only gaze for this parable is on God’s pursuit of you? Could you be missing part of the beautiful imagery and meaning? What gets lost when you are focused solely on your own salvation?
In the metaphorical language of Luke 15, to be rescued from wandering, to be saved from individual lostness is only the Shepherd’s first salvific action. The story is incomplete without the Shepherd restoring the lamb to the other ninety-nine. This is so important! We have all been gathered back, not just back into union with God but back into fellowship with one another. It is within this context of a community, a holy people, that we participate in the mystery of God’s renewal and we experience being conformed to Jesus’ image.
Dear one, be encouraged that your story does not end at Jesus saving you from your personal sin and private darkness. That was just the beginning! You were made for so much more than to merely be saved from something. You were saved for true life and flourishing in communion with the Triune God and with your sisters and brothers.
Prayer: Father, Son, and Spirit, open our eyes to the wonder and hope that we belong to one another. Plant it in our imaginations, to be expressed in our creativity, and to be lived in our bodies. Thank you for the privilege of participating with your eternal, loving purposes through your Body.
By Elizabeth Mullins