Monday, April 9, 2018
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off” (Matthew 18:12-13 NIV).
What is Jesus NOT saying in this passage? Hundreds, if not thousands of lessons have been taught from this passage, but many of them may have missed the point being made. If we venture outside the context, we will produce an entirely different story. Several years ago, an elder chided me in a friendly way by saying, “Ray, my only objection is not your sermon, but your failure to give all five steps to the plan of salvation in your invitation.” My reply was, “If you will show me where anyone in the New Testament was commanded to give that five-step invitation, I’ll follow it.” He backed off because he knew he was binding upon me what God never ordered. It is a tradition that originated in the nineteenth century. He misunderstood the biblical context on the subject.
Looking at the passage above, one could focus upon the ninety-nine and miss Jesus’ point by stating one of the following paragraphs.
“Jesus left the ninety-nine to the wolves, wild dogs, and lions to search for one lamb that was dumb enough to wander away from the protection of the flock. He thinks more of those who don’t obey his voice than the ninety-nine that do.”
“I can’t believe he would abandon the ninety-nine and search for one. When he gets back, he’s going to have more than one sheep that has wandered off. He’s going to spend a lot of time looking for a larger number. Has he really been wise in leaving the majority to search for that one?”
A comedian told about his first introduction to the Bible. He read about the crucifixion of Jesus in Matthew. Then, he read Mark and found the same thing happening. He bewilderingly asked, “Why did they crucify him twice?” He misunderstood the context.
The eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah. He did not understand whether the prophet was speaking of himself or someone else. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. He needed someone to put things in context for him. Philip began at the same scripture and preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:26-35).
According to some reports, Christianity is divided into several thousand divisions. The majority believe some of the basics alike. However, each has one or more teachings that are peculiar to their faith. That peculiarity sets them apart from all the other peculiarities being taught. Those peculiarities are accepted as matters of faith which the holder refuses to surrender. Some believe those peculiar doctrines put them closer to God than the opposite doctrines held by others.
When Gentiles began to “gladly receive his word” and “were baptized,” God added them to the same saved body of believers the Jews were in (Acts 2:41; 10:48). Since their father Abraham had been circumcised in a covenant relationship with God, they believed this peculiar doctrine must be followed by incoming Gentile believers (Genesis 17:7-12; Acts 15:1, 6). Yet, Jesus’ brother suggested that a small letter be sent to Gentiles releasing them from the law of Moses (Acts 15:13-20). Circumcision was a “must” for a Jewish believer, but not required of a Gentile one. It was not an essential in the New Testament covenant. Jewish practices were not Gentile ones. Yet, they needed to recognize what was important (Ephesians 2:6-22; Colossians 2:10-14; Galatians 5:1-4). Those heart held beliefs and actions faded with time as the saved Gentile body of believers became the majority. History shows that some Gentiles believers ridiculed those who continued holding to Jewish practices! Both had a problem with context.
Jesus came to save the lost. Who is lost? Every sinner (Romans 3:10,23)! That’s you and me! We all need him as our Savior. We aren’t good enough to save ourselves. Our sin negate us from the title of “Savior.” He died to pay my sin debt. I can’t raise enough funds to pay it off myself. Neither can you! He made it possible for me, a broken individual, to be born again so I could have my past sins, my present ones, and my future sins forgiven. He bestowed upon me his righteousness (1 Corinthians 5:21). The story of the ninety-nine isn’t about me. The one that was lost and found, is! When a lost individual comes to Jesus, there is rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:7). The sound of that rejoicing will reverberate in your heart as you share in heaven’s joy!
If you have missed Jesus’ point, you’ve misunderstood the context!