Seeking the Lost
( Originally Published 1915 )
THE PHARISEES were very careful to keep all the rules of the Jewish law, and were supposed to be very religious, because they prayed often in public places and went regularly to church. But Jesus saw that their religion was only pretended and not real, and would have nothing to do with them, except rebuke them for their sins. The scribes, who were the teachers of the law in the churches, expected Jesus to give them special honor. But both Pharisees and scribes were very angry when they found that Jesus paid them no attention, and was friendly with the tax collectors whom all the Jews despised and hated. Jesus even allowed some to come near him who were outcasts, people who did not go to church and did not try to keep the rules of the Jews.
The Pharisees and the scribes said in great scorn of Jesus, " This man welcomes sinners, and even sits down at the table to eat with them!"
Jesus heard of their words, and answered them in the parable of " The Lost Sheep." He said :
"If one of you has a hundred sheep, and loses one of them, does he not leave the ninety and nine sheep in the sheepfold out in the fields, and go after the lost one until he finds it. When he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders
with great joy and carries it home. And when he comes to his house, he calls together his neighbors and his friends, saying to them, `Come and be glad with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.'
"So I tell you, there is more joy in heaven over one outcast sinner who turns away from his sin to God, than over ninety-nine religious men who are good already and do not need to turn from sin."
A lady has written this parable in verses that have been set to music and sung many times. These are her verses:
THE NINETY AND NINE
There were ninety and nine that safely lay In the shelter of the fold, But one was out on the hills away, Far off from the gates of gold—Away on the mountains wild and bare, Away from the tender Shepherd's care.
"Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine; Are they not enough for thee?" But the Shepherd made answer, "'Tis of mine Has wandered away from me; And although the road be rough and steep I go to the desert to find my sheep."
But none of the ransomed ever knew How deep were the waters crossed; Nor how dark was the night that the Lord 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.
"Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way That mark out the mountain's track?" "They were shed for one who had gone astray Ere the Shepherd could bring him back." "Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?" "They are pierced tonight by many a thorn."
But all through the mountains, thunder-riven, And up from the rocky steep, There arose a cry to the gate of heaven: "Rejoice! I have found my sheep!" And the angels echoed around the throne, "Rejoice! for the Lord brings back his own!"
MRS. ELIZABETH C. CLEPHANE
Jesus also gave to the people another parable, "The Lost Silver-piece." He said :
"Or, if there is a woman who has ten silver coins, and loses one of them, what will she do? She will light her lamp, and sweep her house, and search carefully for her money, until she finds it. And when she finds it, she goes out and calls together her women-friends and neighbors, and says, `Come and rejoice with me, for I have found the silver-piece which I had lost.'
"Even so, I tell you there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner that turns to God."
It might be asked—why did the woman need to light a lamp when searching for her lost coin? In that land, the houses of the plain people have either no windows, or one window for the whole house, which is merely a hole in the wall. The rooms are dark, even at mid-day, and to look on the floor thoroughly, and especially in the corners, a lamp must be lighted and carried close to the floor.