This is the passage where Jesus tells the story of the shepherd seeking the lost sheep and the woman seeking the lost coin.
The religious folk grumbled…
In their opinion Jesus was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Jesus attempts to create a teaching moment for the church leaders (the Pharisees), describing the compulsion of the shepherd to seek the one lost sheep out of the entire flock …and for the woman to seek for the one lost coin out of ten. He says that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
We know from a broader reading of the scriptures that the leaders of the church just don’t “get it.” Too often, I think we misread the passage as well. How many of us in the church have assumed that we are part of the righteous ninety-nine?
Ironically, those whom the Pharisees judged as unworthy… and therefore inappropriate for Jesus to associate with… probably already considered themselves “sinners.” The crowds who were drawn to this person who spoke truth regardless of political consequence were well aware of their shortcomings. It was the people of the church; the grumblers, the judgers, the schemers and ultimately, the ones responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion ...who were absolutely blind to their own faults.
There is another passage where the leaders of the church have judged and discarded a man who was born blind whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
Having been cast out of the life of the church for crediting Jesus with the miraculous event …the man encounters Jesus again. During their exchange Jesus says that he came, not for those who claim to see and yet are blind, but for those that know that they are blind… that they might see.
A Pharisee standing nearby asks Jesus, “Are you saying that we are blind?” His response reveals that in order to be made whole we must first accept our brokenness.
I believe the message of our passage is that we are all lost sheep. But we need not despair. The shepherd has come …and is calling us by name.