Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 15: "This Man Receiveth Sinners"
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With what relief he hears in the distance its first faint
cry. Following the sound, he climbs the steepest heights,
he goes to the very edge of the precipice, at the risk of his
own life. Thus he searches, while the cry, growing fainter,
tells him that his sheep is ready to die. At last his effort
is rewarded; the lost is found. Then he does not scold
it because it has caused him so much trouble. He does
not drive it with a whip. He does not even try to lead it
home. In his joy he takes the trembling creature upon his
shoulders; if it is bruised and wounded, he gathers it in his
arms, pressing it close to his bosom, that the warmth of
his own heart may give it life. With gratitude that his
search has not been in vain, he bears it back to the fold.
Thank God, He has presented to our imagination no
picture of a sorrowful shepherd returning without the
sheep. The parable does not speak of failure but of success
and joy in the recovery. Here is the divine guarantee that
not even one of the straying sheep of God's fold is
overlooked, not one is left unsuccored. Every one that will
submit to be ransomed, Christ will rescue from the pit of
corruption and from the briers of sin.
Desponding soul, take courage, even though you have
done wickedly. Do not think that perhaps God will pardon [p. 189] your transgressions and permit you to come into His
presence. God has made the first advance. While you
were in rebellion against Him, He went forth to seek you.
With the tender heart of the shepherd He left the ninety
and nine and went out into the wilderness to find that
which was lost. The soul, bruised and wounded and ready
to perish, He encircles in His arms of love and joyfully
bears it to the fold of safety.
It was taught by the Jews that before God's love is
extended to the sinner, he must first repent. In their view,
repentance is a work by which men earn the favor of
Heaven. And it was this thought that led the Pharisees to
exclaim in astonishment and anger. "This man receiveth
sinners." According to their ideas He should permit none
to approach Him but those who had repented. But in the
parable of the lost sheep, Christ teaches that salvation does
not come through our seeking after God but through God's
seeking after us. "There is none that understandeth, there
is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of
the way." Rom. 3:11, 12. We do not repent in order that
God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order
that we may repent.
When the straying sheep is at last brought home, the
shepherd's gratitude finds expression in melodious songs of
rejoicing. He calls upon his friends and neighbors, saying
unto them, "Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep
which was lost." So when a wanderer is found by the
great Shepherd of the sheep, heaven and earth unite in
thanksgiving and rejoicing.
"Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,
more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need
no repentance." You Pharisees, said Christ, regard
yourselves as the favorites of heaven. You think yourselves
secure in your own righteousness. Know, then, that if you [p. 190] need no repentance, My mission is not to you. These poor
souls who feel their poverty and sinfulness, are the very
ones whom I have come to rescue. Angels of heaven are
interested in these lost ones whom you despise. You
complain and sneer when one of these souls joins himself
to Me; but know that angels rejoice, and the song of
triumph rings through the courts above.
The rabbis had a saying that there is rejoicing in heaven
when one who has sinned against God is destroyed; but
Jesus taught that to God the work of destruction is a
strange work. That in which all heaven delights is the
restoration of God's own image in the souls whom He
When one who has wandered far in sin seeks to return
to God, he will encounter criticism and distrust. There are
those who will doubt whether his repentance is genuine, or
will whisper, "He has no stability; I do not believe that
he will hold out." These persons are doing not the work
of God but the work of Satan, who is the accuser of the
brethren. Through their criticisms the wicked one hopes
to discourage that soul, and to drive him still farther from
hope and from God. Let the repenting sinner contemplate
the rejoicing in heaven over the return of the one that was
lost. Let him rest in the love of God and in no case be
disheartened by the scorn and suspicion of the Pharisees.
The rabbis understood Christ's parable as applying to
the publicans and sinners; but it has also a wider meaning.
By the lost sheep Christ represents not only the individual
sinner but the one world that has apostatized and has been
ruined by sin. This world is but an atom in the vast
dominions over which God presides, yet this little fallen
world—the one lost sheep—is more precious in His sight
than are the ninety and nine that went not astray from the
fold. Christ, the loved Commander in the heavenly courts, [p. 191] stooped from His high estate, laid aside the glory that He
had with the Father, in order to save the one lost world.
For this He left the sinless worlds on high, the ninety and
nine that loved Him, and came to this earth, to be "wounded
for our transgressions" and "bruised for our iniquities."
(Isa. 53:5.) God gave Himself in His Son that He might
have the joy of receiving back the sheep that was lost.
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