Read first: Luke 15:4-7
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of redemption by telling a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One of the sheep wandered away into the dangers of the wild wilderness. So the good and wise shepherd prepares for a perilous journey, and though he has 99 sheep safe at home, he sets out in search of the one that wandered away, determined to bring it back. When he finds the lost sheep, he lifts it to his strong shoulders, and begins to make the journey back. When he arrives back at home, he is so overcome with joy that he invites all his friends and neighbors to come and rejoice with him that his sheep has been found.
There are many beautiful renditions of this story told in songs and poems, but one of my favorites is this hymn written by Elizabeth Cecelia Clephane in the 1800s:
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
E’re He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry—
Sick and helpless, and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
E’re the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”
What makes such a simple story so powerful and so beautiful is that we are the lost sheep. We wander out into the dark and into the cold, never realizing just how far we’ve wandered or how lost we truly are. We have no sense of the danger that surrounds us. We think we’re okay. We can’t even begin to fathom what our Shepherd—Jesus—endured to find us and bring us back home. And I wish– oh, I wish that just once I could hear Him thunder that joyful cry over me, “Rejoice! I have found my sheep!” And one day– in eternity– I will. But for now, I am content to remain here in the safety of His fold. Here, we are safe. We are secure. But most of all, we are no longer wandering.