OUR Lord Jesus Christ while He was here below was continually in the pursuit of lost souls. He was seeking lost men and women, and it was for this reason that He went down among them, even among those who were most evidently lost, that He might find them. He took pains to put Himself where He could come into communication with them, and He exhibited such kindliness towards them that in crowds they drew near to hear Him.
The going after the sheep is a part of the parable which our Lord meant them to observe: the shepherd pursues a route which he would never think of pursuing if it were only for his own pleasure; his way is not selected for his own ends, but for the sake of the stray sheep. He takes a track up hill and down dale, far into a desert, or into some dark wood, simply because the sheep has gone that way, and he must follow it until he finds it.
To a tender heart a lost sheep is a painful subject of thought. It is a sheep, and therefore utterly defenceless now that it has left its defender. If the wolf should spy it out, or the lion or the bear should come across its track, it would be torn in pieces in an instant. Thus the shepherd asks his heart the question— “What will become of my sheep?”
A sheep is not prepared for fight, and even for flight it has not the swiftness of its enemy. A sheep is of all creatures the most senseless. If we have lost a dog, it may find its way home again; possibly a horse might return to its master’s stable; but a sheep will wander on and on, in endless mazes lost. It is too foolish a thing to think of returning to the place of safety. A lost sheep is lost indeed in countries where lands lie unenclosed and the plains are boundless. A sheep is shiftless; it knows nothing about providing for itself. The camel can scent water from afar, and a vulture can espy its food from an enormous distance; but the sheep can find nothing for itself. Of all creatures a lost sheep is one of the worst.
The parable does not so much speak of a hired shepherd, but of a shepherd proprietor. “What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them.” It is not a sheep alone, and a lost sheep, but it is one of his own lost sheep that this man cares for. This parable is not written about lost humanity in the bulk— it may be so used if you please— but in its first sense it is written about Christ’s own sheep. Jesus has His own sheep, and some of them are lost: yea, they were all once in the same condition; for “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” “For thus saith the Lord God, “ Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep.”
We are the Lord’s own flock, furthermore, by His purchase of us; He says: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” It is nearly nineteen centuries ago since He paid the ransom price, and bought us to be His own; and we shall be His, for that purchase-money was not paid in vain. This thought, therefore, presses upon Him, “One of my sheep is lost.” What! lose one whom His Father gave Him to be His own? Lose one whom He has bought with His own life? It may wander for a time, but He will not have it lost forever: that He cannot bear.
You know how dearly He loves every one of His people. He has loved His own and must love them to the end. Will He lose one of those so dearly loved? Never; never. The wandering of a soul causes Jesus deep sorrow; He cannot bear the thought of its perishing. Such is the love and tenderness of His heart that He cannot, bear that one of His own should be in jeopardy. He can take no rest as long as a soul for whom He shed his blood still abides under the power of sin; therefore the Great Shepherd neither night nor day forgetteth His sheep: He must save His flock, and He is straitened till it be accomplished.
He has a deep sympathy with each stray heart. He knows the sorrow that sin brings, the deep pollution and the terrible wounding that comes of transgression, even at the time; and the sore heart and the broken spirit that will come of it before long; and so the sympathetic Saviour grieves over each lost sheep, for He knows the misery which lies in the fact of being lost.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will never have it said of Him that He has lost one of His people, for He glories in having preserved them all. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost...” The devil shall never say that Jesus suffered one whom His Father gave him to perish. His work of love cannot in any degree become a failure. His death in vain! No, not in jot or tittle. I can imagine, if it were possible, that the Son of God should live in vain: but to die in vain! It shall never be.
All this while the sheep is not thinking about the shepherd, or caring for him in the least degree. Some of you are not thinking at all about the Lord Jesus. Ah, me! how far you have wandered! How hopeless would your case be if there were not an Almighty Shepherd to think upon you. Jesus knows all about His redeemed. It is grand to think of the Lord Jesus Christ with His heart set immovably upon the rescue of a soul which at this moment is lost to Him.
Notice the perseverance of the search; “until He finds it.” He does not stop till He has done the deed. You and I ought to seek after a soul, how long? Why, until we find it; for such is the model set before us by the Master.
The next scene is the Shepherd at home, saving, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” The greatest joy of all is that the sheep is with the shepherd. How beautifully the parable sets forth the whole of salvation. See, the shepherd finds the sheep, and he layeth it on his shoulders. It is an uplifting action, raising the' fallen one from the earth whereon he hath strayed. It is as though he took the sheep just as it was, without a word of rebuke, without delay or hesitancy, and lifted it out of the slough or the briers into a place of safety. Do you not remember when the Lord lifted you up from the horrible pit? I shall never forget that day. What a wonderful lift it was for me when the Great Shepherd lifted me into newness of life!
Here are our Lord’s own words, “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” Hands of such might as those of Jesus will hold fast the found one. Shoulders of such power as those of Jesus will safely bear the found one home. It is all well with that sheep, for it is positively and experimentally the Good Shepherd’s own, just as it always had been His in the eternal purpose of the Father. Do you remember when Jesus said unto you, “Thou art mine”?
The one thing I want to leave with you is how our gracious Lord seems to give Himself up to His own redeemed. How entirely and perfectly every thought of His heart, every action of His power, goes toward the needy, guilty, lost soul. He spends His all to bring back His banished. Blessed be His name! Now let all our hearts go forth in love towards Him, who gave all His heart to work our redemption. Let us love Him. Let us love Him with all our heart and soul. Let us feel as if we saw nothing, knew nothing, loved nothing save Jesus crucified. As we filled all His heart let Him fill all our hearts!
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Parable of the Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:4-7) by CH Spurgeon dated 28 September 1884. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-parable-of-the-lost-sheep/#flipbook/