Kevin’s mother might complain to her friend: “I’m afraid since his girlfriend left him, Kevin’s been completely direction-less. A bit of a lost sheep really.”
But it’s not just Kevin. The Bible puts that label on a much broader constituency. Often the people of God are called “sheep without a shepherd” (e.g. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17). And Isaiah said “All we like sheep have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6)
It’s not a flattering picture, but this is how the Bible paints the spiritual condition of the human race. Not majestic lions, not soaring eagles, not even faithful dogs – lost sheep.
Here’s the famous parable from Jesus’ own lips:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)
The foolishness of sheep beggars belief. They will not find their way back to the sheep pen. There is no such film as Flossie Come Home! There is no triumphant final scene with Flossie trotting, slow motion, back to the farm at sunset, its brave journey now at an end. If Flossie gets lost, Flossie stays lost. And dies. The End.
And even if the shepherd goes out and finds Flossie, the job is not done. A lost sheep will not walk beside its master as they head home together. The sheep must be hoisted onto his strong shoulders and carried every step of the way.
Sheep are dumb. Really, really dumb.
What is your picture of humanity? Are we brave masters of our own fate? Are we bold seekers after truth? The Bible says that, spiritually speaking, we’re bleating sheep who don’t even know how to respond when the LORD our Shepherd appears.
Jesus could not leave us to find our own way home. He couldn’t just send us a map and trust us to figure it out. He couldn’t even blaze a trail and ask us to follow close behind. Occasionally He speaks in those terms (see yesterday’s post). But all talk of “our following” relies ultimately on “His carrying.”
The sacrificial disciple of a few verses earlier is now shown in their natural condition – they are a lost sheep now rescued. The followers are first the found. Those who “carry their cross” are, more fundamentally, those who are carried.
Jesus had to come and take our whole humanity onto Himself. He joined us in our predicament, united us to Himself and marched home, carrying us with Him. (Isaiah 40:11)
If the image of Luke 14 was a dead man walking – cross on shoulders, the image of Luke 15 is a lost sheep found – carried on shoulders.
Can you picture the journey home through the eyes of that sheep? If you trust in Christ, that’s where you are. And there’s nowhere safer!