I have been thinking about the concept of Christ leaving the 99 for the one. I have heard many people talk about that part of “Reckless Love” as if it were a reckless event; leaving the 99 to find and rescue the one. But, I think I disagree with this. You can’t look at it as Christ leaving 99 lost sheep on their own. The 99 sheep He is “leaving” are 99 sheep that are already within His Kingdom. Those are sheep that are currently found in His Spirit. But, His focus turns to the one that is lost.
“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd. You may recall Jesus telling a parable in Matthew 18:10-14 where He talks about leaving the 99 for the one. The Pharisees couldn’t grasp this because they were more concerned and interested in the 99. They were primarily focused on self-preservation. So, the idea of leaving the 99 “holy” and “righteous” people behind was absolutely absurd. But to Jesus, it was a thing of trust that those 99 were already settled into the Kingdom and looking out for one another. He can “step away” and be the hero for that ONE lost sheep. This past week we heard two testimonies. Both of these testimonies were beautiful. Madeline talked about this thing of Christ leaving the 99 for the one and how it brought her to a new place of humility.
“Why would someone leave 99? That whole concept doesn’t make sense to me at all, and now…I am the one. I am the one…..I don’t understand that, but I am so thankful for it.”
Can you relate to this? Can you recount a memory of when you were stuck in a place, separated from God and He came to your rescue? It’s beautiful. Again, I don’t see it as God carelessly wandering off into the night leaving His people unattended. God created this so we would also depend on one another.
Now, this is obviously all just an image created to make a point. Christ doesn’t literally leave us somewhere, right? It’s a story making the point that Jesus has a heart and love for the lost just as much as the found. Once that lost sheep is found, they join in with the other 99. But, let’s change focus here. There is obviously a difference between sheep and us. I believe we are called to “run to the messes” as our Pastor puts it. We aren’t just helplessly grazing in a field, completely vulnerable to an attack of the enemy. We are to join in this rescue mission with Christ. There are sheep out there that need to be found and Christ wants us with Him. So, the 99 are not so much a group of helpless sheep without a Shepherd, as they are an army of warriors following their general into battle to rescue fallen soldiers.
What it comes down to is perception. Where is your focus? Are you worried about self-preservation? Keeping the 99 within the four walls of your church building maintained and happy? Or are you wanting to bring as many sheep into this sheepfold as you can? Christ has a heart for the lost, the prodigal sons and daughters. He doesn’t stand in the house waiting for you to run to Him. He leaves His throne to die on a cross and meet you where YOU are. That’s the kind of Savior we have.
So, where are you right now? Do you find yourself within the 99? If so, what are you doing to prepare for battle? What are you doing to bring as many sheep into this sheepfold as you can? Or, are you the one lost sheep? If so, remember that Christ loves you so much. No matter how bad you think you are, Christ is there with open arms to welcome you. I promise you that if you reach out you will not be met with cold, judgmental arms. You will be met with love, grace, mercy, and the warmth of a loving Father.
I want to end with a quote from James King this past week. You see, I believe this is something that the 99 and the 1 can share in: the faithfulness of God. He is always with you even if you don’t feel Him. So, if you are in the 99 He never really leaves you. Or, if you are the one lost sheep, just know this: God is always with you.
“Even when I didn’t see Him working or even when I felt like things had stopped or plateaued, looking back now… you know, removed from the situation… it’s like, nah, God’s always been faithful. He’s always been working, and I can trust that.”