Joy that Comes When a Sinner Repents
Isaiah, the inspired writer of the prophetic book that bears his name, wrote, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way” (Isa. 53:6). Yet in some instances, not all the sheep wander off at the same time. Jesus described a scenario in which a shepherd had 100 sheep and lost one of them—just one out of a hundred, a mere one percent. Yet the shepherd ventured out to find it. In their book recounting the events reported in Luke’s Gospel, Francis and Edith Schaeffer describe the situation:
Can’t you imagine him hunting behind rocks and prickly bushes, over steep places where the precipice started and where the sheep would be dashed on rocks below? The shepherd’s hands would become scratched with thorns, and his feet torn by sharp rocks, but he would keep on searching. Jesus said that he found the sheep, and placed it on his shoulder. Can’t you imagine his cry of joy, and his smile as he tenderly carried the sheep back to the fold? When he arrived home that night, he called all his friends and neighbors over for a celebration, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, be glad with me, celebrate with me…for I have found my sheep which was lost (Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Everybody Can Know, [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1973], 245).
The scribes and Pharisees were disgruntled and even furious with Jesus for spending so much time with “tax collectors and sinners” (see Luke 15:1-2). Yet as Jesus would later declare in the presence of yet another tax collector, He had come “to seek and to save the lost” (see Luke 19:10).
It is striking that Jesus said “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance” (15:7). Certainly everyone needs to repent (see 13:2-3; Rom. 3:23), but Jesus was highlighting the joy that overflows when someone who’s been lost is found. In his commentary on Luke, Warren Wiersbe highlights a “fourfold joy” that abounds when a sinner comes to Jesus: the joy in the heart of the one who is found (see Acts 8:39), the joy experienced by the finder (see Luke 15:5), the joy the finder’s friends feel over the happy event (see v. 6), and joy in heaven among the angels and God (see vv. 7,10) (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, vol. 1, [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989], 234).
Yes, we’ve wandered off like sheep, but we can be grateful that “the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). We regret the sins we have committed, but we joyfully receive the forgiveness made possible by Jesus’ substitutionary death.
B. Nathaniel Sullivan
Christian educator, Bible teacher, and Editor
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in SundaySchoolZone.com materials are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.