Consider first the publicans and sinners (see Luke 16-24). The accusation comes in Luke 15:2, “this man receiveth sinners.” Note that the previous events that had taken place revolved around the woman and the city (see Luke 7). See also the story of Matthew the tax gatherer. It was the accusation of verse 2 that prompted the parable.
When the Lord spoke of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, He was describing the “publicans” and “sinners.” The parables are designed to show the activity of the Godhead in the salvation of the lost through the suffering Savior, the lost coin, the seeking Spirit, and the singing Father.
There were three things that stood out in the first parable:
1. The valve of a soul
2. The love of the shepherd
3. The cost of redemption
The Valve of a Soul
The sheep is representative of the sinner. It represents the lost, who are headed for certain death, but are still so valuable in the eyes of the shepherd. Consider Mark 8:36-37, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Psalm 49:6, 8 - “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)”
The Love of the Shepherd
The shepherd left the ninety-nine other sheep and went after the lost one. The shepherd thought not of himself, but of the sheep. What a picture we have here of a sheep lost, but valuable, and of a shepherd who loved the straying sheep. [Describe Christ as the Shepherd.] Song of Songs 8:7-8 describes such a love, “Love as strong as death – that many waters could not quench.” Describe the scene in heaven in Isaiah 6:8, which says, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” The answer is, “Then said I, here am I send me.” Paul gives further light on what this means:
Philippians 2:6-8 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”
The Cost of Redemption
The shepherd left all that he had and went after the sheep that was lost. Matthew 13 says that “he sold all that he had to procure the treasure.”
“For none of the ransomed ever knew,
How deep were the waters crossed!
Nor how dark was the night that the hoard passed through
Ere he found his sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert he heard its cry –
Sick and helpless and ready to die.”
The sufferings of the Savior as he sought the sheep are described in Psalm 22:
Note verse 1, which says, “My God, my God […]” In verses 2-5, the patriarchs trusted and were delivered. We find the statement, “But I am a worm and no man” in verse 6, and in verse 7, we see that the people laugh at him; they put their tongue out at him; they mock him. He says, “I am poured out like water, my heart is melted like wax.” His strength is gone, His tongue is swollen, He has an awful thirst, and His hands and feet are pierced. His bones are out of joint and He is forsaken by God. He cries out, “My God, my God […]” John 13:1 says, “[…] having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
Lamentations 1:12 - “Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the hand hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
Why did the Lord the heavenly Shepherd do this? Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save the lost.” The lost sheep is loved - “The Son of God who loved me […]”