The Parable of the Lost Sheep
3. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
(Matt 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 you 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 His voice 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. What do you see in this? That there is no prohibitiveness in and actions? The way people see it, there’s no way that God could use human knowledge, language, or ways of speaking to talk about what God Himself wanted to say, the work He wanted to do, or to express His own will; this is erroneous thinking. God used this type of metaphor so that people could feel the realness and the sincerity of God, and see His attitude toward people during that time period. This parable awakened people from a dream who had been living under the law for a long time, and it also inspired generation after generation of people living in the Age of Grace. By reading the passage of this parable, people know God’s sincerity in saving mankind and understand mankind’s weight in His heart.
Let’s take another look at the last sentence in this passage: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Was this the Lord ’ own words, or the words of His Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it’s the that’s speaking, but His will represents the will of God Himself, which is why He said: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” People at that time only acknowledged the Father in heaven as God, and this person that they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and He could not represent the Father in heaven. That’s why the Lord Jesus had to say that as well, so that they could really feel God’s will for mankind, and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this was a simple thing to say, it was very caring and it revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or He worked in the spiritual realm, He knew the human heart best, and best understood what people needed, knew what people worried about, and what confused them, so He added this one line. This line highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what the Son of man said, which is to say, when the Lord Jesus was speaking He had to add: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Only on this premise could His words bear fruit, to make people believe their accuracy and improve their credibility. This shows that when God became a regular Son of man, God and mankind had a very awkward relationship, and that the Son of man’s situation was very embarrassing. It also shows how insignificant the Lord Jesus’ status among humans was at that time. When He said this, it was actually to tell people: You can rest assured—this doesn’t represent what’s in My own heart, but it is the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, wasn’t this an ironic thing? Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection, and the process of experiencing mankind competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that was waging an on-the-ground war against Satan; it was more that God became an ordinary man and began a struggle with those who follow Him, and in this struggle the Son of man completed His work with His humility, with what He has and is, with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and returned to His throne.