Exploring the Scripture
Jesus with a lamb across his shoulders has been the subject of many paintings, carvings, and other art forms for centuries. Inspiration for that image is found in one of two parables that make up much of today’s text. But there is more to this text than that one familiar image.
The passage begins by describing how Jesus annoyed the Pharisees and scribes by eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 1). Jesus was often countercultural in his engagements with people. The Pharisees and scribes were the ones who could decide what was clean and unclean, righteous and unrighteous, acceptable and unacceptable. Extending radical hospitality by eating with sinners was taboo. By his actions, Jesus was saying to those religious leaders that his message of joy, hope, love, and peace was for all people; that the worth of the person transcended their set of religious laws. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees and scribes that everyone has a place at God’s table.
He then challenged those seemingly pious religious leaders by telling two parables. In the first, he asks who wouldn’t leave the herd of sheep to search for one that was lost—and on finding it, who wouldn’t rejoice? In the second, Jesus asks what person would not light a lamp to find a lost coin. The reaction to finding the coin is, similarly, a celebration to which a happy and grateful woman invites her friends and neighbors.
Jesus gave a twofold message through these parables. First, it is important to search for that which is lost. Even sinners are worth seeking after. Second, finding the lost is about celebrating. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (v. 7) and “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10), Jesus says.
Jesus’ actions and message in today’s text foreshadow what has become known as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). It is as much for us today as it was for people in Jesus’ time. We have been called in our generation as individuals and as a community to “look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go” (Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d). We have also been told this is a joyful task, not a compulsory drudge. “And if it so be that you should labor all your days…and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy, if you should bring many souls unto me!” (Doctrine and Covenants 16:3e–f, 4a).
- Jesus teaches by deed and words that his message of God’s kingdom is for all people and all are welcome at his table.
- Our effort to bring back into life as disciples those who are separated from God is part of the work to which we have been called.
- Seeking and finding the lost is a joyous occasion worth celebrating.
Questions to Consider
- What are the parallels between the two parables in today’s text?
- Why did the shepherd risk the entire flock to find a solitary animal? What does that mean for us today as we engage in Christ’s mission?
- What is your congregation doing to find “lost sheep” in your community? What could it do to “look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go” (Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d)?
- How is your congregation engaged in the community or neighborhood around its location?
- How can your congregation celebrate the joy of seeking and finding the lost?
- When have you been “lost”? How did it feel to be found?