'Go to the lost house of Israel"
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a wonderful story told by Jesus to illustrate the loveand compassion that God has for every person. The parable is found in Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and is in response to Jesus being criticized and attacked by the religious leaders for "eating with sinners". The religious leaders, also known as the Pharisees, had hearts filled with wrong motives and prejudice. They could not believe Jesus would associate with these types of people. Jesus stops the crowd and begins to tell a story of how a shepherd left his flock of 99 sheep to go find one lost sheep.
This parable displays the beautiful meaning of God seeking out the lost sinner and rejoicing when they are found. God cares about all of us equally and will stop everything to find us and care for us. We serve a Good Shepherd whose heart is for us to be found, rescued, and renewed. The parable of the lost sheep is meant to teach us how we should care for others regardless of how they look or act. We have been called to love and care for the lost!
-Jeremiah 50:6 --
-The lost sheep of Israel-
“My people have been lost sheep;
their shepherds have led them astray
and caused them to roam on the mountains.
They wandered over mountain and hill
and forgot their own resting place.
In Jeremiah 50:6, God calls Israel His people and “lost sheep.” The Messiah, spoken of throughout the Old Testament, was seen as the one who would gather these “lost sheep” (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Micah 5:4-5). When Jesus presented Himself as a shepherd to Israel, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Mark 6:34, 14:27; John 10:11-16; see also Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; and Revelation 7:17).
God revealed through Moses that the children of Israel were “a holy people to the LORD . . . chosen . . . a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). It was through the Jews that God issued His Law, preserved His Word, and sent His Son. This is why, elsewhere, Jesus tells a Samaritan that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). In Matthew 15, when the Jewish Messiah says that He was sent to “the house of Israel,” He is simply connecting His presence with God’s purpose in Old Testament history. Christ was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).
By referring to Himself as the True Shepherd, Jesus was invoking imagery that would have been familiar to His hearers. He used the symbols of sheep and their shepherd several times, referring to Himself as not only the “True” Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd(John 10:11), and the Door of the sheep (John 10:7). The three declarations in John 10 present a complete picture of the Lord who is our Shepherd (Psalm 23).
In order to understand what Jesus intended to convey with sheep/shepherd imagery, we must understand the Middle Eastern shepherd of biblical times. His job was a dirty and dangerous one. Many times all the shepherd had to fight off lions and other wild animals was a staff with a crook. He willingly put his life on the line for his flock. At night, he would put the flock in a makeshift pen that had only one way in and out. The shepherd would open to door to the pen, call the sheep by name, and they would come in and settle safely for the night.
Sheep are skittish animals and “spook” easily. Because they knew the shepherd’s voice, they would calm down and follow him and nobody but him. Several flocks can mix together, and when the flocks’ true shepherd speaks, they separate and follow him. If a thief comes, the sheep will not follow him because they do not know his voice. At night the shepherd lies down at the gate to the pen, to give his life if necessary to protect his flock. And the thief can only climb in over the fence because the shepherd is guarding the gate. Jesus is the True Shepherd to the sheep (true believers) who are His. We know Him, we recognize His voice, and we follow only Him (John 10:27–28).
What Jesus is saying here ties right into John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd who gives His life willingly for His sheep (John 10:11), but He is the also the “gate” or “door” of the sheep (John 10:9). In this metaphor Jesus presents Himself as the One who gives salvation, the One who offers access to heaven. So, Jesus is the True Shepherd who guards His sheep, the Good Shepherd who gives His life for them, and the Doorway to heaven for the sheep who know Him and are known by Him.
Jesus also says there were many who came before Him pretending to be good shepherds. But, He says, they are thieves and robbers who come in among the flock. He is alluding to the false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees who did not love the people, nor were they willing to sacrifice for them. These self-appointed and self-righteous false shepherds led the sheep of Israel astray from the true knowledge of the Messiah, clinging to a works-based religion that could not lead to salvation (Ezekiel 34:1–31). These leaders were not the true shepherds of Israel but were like thieves that plundered the flock for their own gain. Sadly, such false shepherds still abound today, more interested in fleecing the flock for their own personal gain, than in feeding and protecting the sheep as true under-shepherds to the True Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.