What Are the Lord’s Intentions Behind the Parable of the Shepherd Seeking the Lost Sheep?
Having believed in the Lord for ten years, I had read the New Testament so many times, and I had some understanding of the scripture, so I fully believed that I had the ability to understand. Yet, after attending an entirely new kind of discussion the other day, I felt ashamed of what I had thought. As I raise my head to look out of the window, I’m lost in my memory …
The Bible-Reading Meeting Several Days Ago
A few days ago, after breakfast, I went to the meeting place early. On entering the room, I saw Brother Zhang. Then I asked him, “Brother Zhang, how come you are so early today?”
He replied with a smile, “Yeah. Pastor Yuan is too busy to come here today. He asked me to hold today’s Bible-reading meeting, so I came a little early.”
I nodded my head and said, “Thank the Lord.”
He smiled at me, saying, “Brother Zhou, you are quite proficient at the scripture. How about you preach to us today?”
“Oh, no, no. It’s better you preach to us.” I said with modesty.
He thought for a while and then said, “How about this? Today, let’s change our meeting today. Instead of how we’ve done it before, with one person preaching and everyone else listening, we can discuss the scripture together. What do you say?”
I nodded and said, “Well, that’s a good idea! I guess we could.”
After a while, the brothers and sisters all arrived. After we prayed together, Brother Zhang said, “Brothers and sisters, we will break with convention at today’s Bible-reading meeting. We will explore the scripture together. Everyone can speak out freely, and talk about your understanding about the scripture. What do you think about this?”
After hearing that, the brothers and sisters were very excited and began to talk amongst themselves, saying:
“Good! Having the Bible-reading meeting in this way is nice. It’s free and liberating.”
“Yeah! In this way, we all can speak out our viewpoints. Then our meeting won’t be so tedious.”
At that moment, Brother Zheng stood up and said, “Brother Zhang, I’m failing to understand the metaphor of the shepherd seeking the lost sheep. Can we discuss this passage of the scriptures today?”
“Of course! Brother Zheng, please read the scripture passages.” Brother Zhang replied.
Then, Brother Zheng opened the Bible and read, “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” (Matthew 18:12–14).
When Brother Zheng finished his reading, Brother Zhang looked at everyone and said, “Thank the Lord. Everyone can speak their minds freely regarding this passage, and explore the’ will in this parable. Whoever has some insight into it can fellowship first.”
After some contemplation, Brother Qian began to speak: “My understanding of it is that the Lord Jesus is comparing us believers to sheep. If any sheep gets lost, the Lord will try every possible means to seek it, for He can’t bear to see any sheep be carried off by a wolf, or we can say taken by Satan.”
“Right!” interposed Sister Liu. “From the Lord Jesus’ words, we can see that He gives us human beings so much love. No matter how negative and weak we are, or what sins we have committed, as long as we turn back from our wrong path, repent and confess our sins to the Lord, He will rejoice in His heart. This really shows His mercy and love for us.”
I quite agreed with her opinion and, nodding my head, I said, “Thank the Lord! We indeed see the Lord’s love for us from this parable. He wants all of us to follow Him and gain His salvation, rather than live under Satan’s domain and be afflicted by it. So, we must always be considerate to the Lord’s will and assist those brothers and sisters more who are negative and weak. What’s more, we should spreadmore and bear more fruits, so that more people can return before Him and gain His salvation.”
At that moment, Brother Zhang looked around and said in a steady voice, “Thanks be to the Lord! You have all had a good discussion. Here, I want to share my understanding about this passage as well. The Lord Jesus compared us to sheep, and if a sheep is lost, He will leave behind the others to seek the one lost sheep. His words not only represent His love for us mankind, but express His resolve and attitude to saving us in His work. When the Lord Jesus was incarnated and came to earth, He could speak to people in a language they could understand, and He made analogies of the things mankind usually come across in our daily lives to express His heartfelt wish to save mankind. In this way, we can understand His will and feel His true existence and His dearness and loveliness. At the same time, we can see that there is no distance between God and mankind; He is right by our side, doing His work and expressing His words to save us. He is so kind and so close to us, that we can truly appreciate that His love toward us mankind is so practical, and that He cares for us all the time.”
After hearing his words, I felt somewhat shocked. I thought: “His communion is truly full of light today. That is what I have never understood.”
Brother Zheng, looking at Brother Zhang in surprise, said, “Brother Zhang, what you said came from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord. Please fellowship more with us.” Others nodded their heads and continued listening in earnest.
Brother Zhang nodded and continued, “Thank the Lord! To redeem mankind, God Himself became flesh to express the truth among people and did His work to save us. He bestowed so much grace and blessings on us and supplied us selflessly. When interacting with people, He wanted them to hear and understand His every word, and recognize His will, and not live in their misunderstandings, notions and imaginations. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.’ Why did the Lord Jesus emphasize these words? They not only contain His selfless love for mankind, but even more so they contain His humility and hiddenness. Some time ago, I read some words about this aspect of truth in a book. I have written them down, shall I read them to you?”
We all quite approved of it and said, “Alright. Brother Zhang, please read them.”
Brother Zhang then took out his notebook, and began to read: “‘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 Jesus’ own words, or the words of the Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it is the Lord Jesus who is 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 believed that this person whom they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and could not represent the Father in heaven. That is why the Lord Jesus had to add this sentence to the end of this parable, so that people could really feel God’s will for mankind and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this sentence was a simple thing to say, it was spoken with care and love and revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or whether 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, and that is why He added this sentence. This sentence highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what thesaid, 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,’ and 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 uneasy 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—these words do not represent what is in My own heart, but they are the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, was this not 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 experiencing their competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and to conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that God incarnate 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, and with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and ‘returned’ to His throne.”
We all listened in earnest. Some nodded, and some took notes as they listened.
Having read these words, Brother Zhang continued his fellowship: “From this passage, we can see that the reason why the Lord Jesus especially stressed the words, ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish,’ was because He wanted to achieve better effects on His followers. From this we can see His humility and selfless love toward mankind. He would rather endure the doubts, misunderstandings, ridicule, and slander from people and still continue to do His own work. Recall the records in the Bible. At that time, most of the common people who followed the Lord Jesus didn’t believe He was God. They treated Him as an ordinary person, for He was born into a common family and had parents, brothers and sisters. Even though He manifested many miracles and did the work that no one could do, some merely regarded Him as a doctor, some merely regarded Him as a teacher, and those who had some faith in the Lord Jesus regarded Him as a prophet. Not even the disciples who followed Him treated Him as God. For example, it is written in the Bible, ‘Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip?’ (John 14:8–9). From this, we can see that in their hearts, His followers merely acknowledged that the Lord Jesus was sent by God the Father. Apart from Peter, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit and said that the Lord Jesus was, no one recognized that He was the God in heaven who had incarnated and come among man. Thus it can be seen that they believed in and followed God, but still worshiped the God in heaven, and no one treated Christ incarnate as God. However, for the sake of completing the work of redemption for mankind and gaining those He wished to gain, the Lord Jesus silently endured all of man’s misunderstandings. No matter how man treated Him, He still worked and expressed the truth to save and teach man. Finally, He was crucified for mankind’s sake, thus completing the work of redeeming all mankind. These works and words of the Lord Jesus reveal God’s selfless love, as well as His humility and hiddenness.”
After hearing his fellowship, we all were deeply moved. In an excited voice, I said, “Thank the Lord! After hearing the words Brother Zhang read and his fellowship, my eyes really have been opened. The analogy of the Lord finding the lost sheep not only shows His love to us mankind, but it also hides His humility, and within it are also found His dearness and respectability. Furthermore, we can see His earnest intention in saving man. No matter how many misunderstandings we have about Him, the Lord Jesus patiently guides us to understand the truth and understand His will, and with great mercy and tolerance, He teaches and saves man. The essence of God is so beautiful and good. Ah! When I read this passage of scripture before, my understanding of it was too superficial and one-sided. Such a reading and discussion that we’re having today is really enjoyable!”
After hearing this fellowship, Sister Liu was moved to tears and said, “Yes, the Lord Jesus has done so much work and poured out so much love on us humans, but we still don’t recognize or understand it; we’re really indebted to the Lord!”
“That’s right, thank the Lord,” We all said, nodding our heads.
Brother Zheng asked Brother Zhang curiously, “Brother Zhang, I haven’t heard you fellowship with so much light before. How did you get this illumination?”
He answered, “Thank the Lord! Over the past few days, I’ve been reading a book my friend gave me. I think the words in that book are very practical, and I have understood some truth from it. The words I have just read are from that book.”
Brother Zheng said in surprise, “Ah, no wonder his fellowship is different today. It turns out that he’s found a treasure …”
The brothers and sisters began to discuss enthusiastically amongst themselves …
Brother Zhang Sends the Book to Me
Now my thoughts are interrupted by a knock on the outer door. As I open the door, I see Brother Zhang. “Oh, Brother Zhang, It’s you. Have you brought that book here?” I ask happily.
“Yes, I have,” he replies, nodding his head.
I’m overjoyed, and say, “Let’s read it together!”
He brings out the book, and then we read it together …