The Bible presents us with so many mysteries that we can hardly know what to make of it. We could study all the ancient principles that poke their heads through or we could apply stories like the parables to our lives today. I choose the latter because it seems more relevant but this is not the only way. What truly amazes me about the Bible is that you can look at it from so many different angles and by painting another view, and another view, eventually see that it is the same picture. Let’s take a look at the famous parable of the lost sheep.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Lk 15:1-7
Here we have two opposing groups of people; team 1 is the tax collectors and sinners, and team 2 is the Pharisees and scribes. It would seem that Jesus Christ is saying that the team 1 is the lost sheep and team 2 is the 99 he doesn’t need to worry about – or is he?
Sheep are defenceless and innocent animals; they can represent within us the purity of the human spirit. Christ Jesus was described as “a sheep led to the slaughter” Acts 8:32
One way to look at this story is to see how we are all sheep, we have been herded onto this earth and here we huddle in one big flock. Some of us collect taxes, some (most of us actually) sin – harmatia which means to miss the target –, some of us join elite religious (or political) groups and some of us study and write about the laws which guide life. We are all in eremos, the wilderness, alone, disconnected from our spiritual home. Our humanity is lost apollumi, we cannot see who we really are, we have lost that conscious awareness of our place in the universe. We all think we have the right job, whether we collect taxes or preach religious or political maxims; we are a cosy part of the flock. If we are to restore what is lost we have to leave the flock. We have to die to the flock and be resurrected to the experience of who we really are.
The target that we are aiming for is our I being, our I Am, that part of us that is necessary to becoming fully human; anthropos is the word translated as ‘man’ and it points to the human being who has reached full humanity. This anthropos makes the discovery of what is lost and when he discovers it – heurisko translated as ‘find’ speaks of discovery – of course the response is to rejoice, to be glad, chairo. It is like a home-coming and we gather our friends, philo, those with whom we share a brotherly love because they have also made this discovery, along with our neighbours – those who are nearby and who have an inkling of what we are experiencing, to sugchairo, to rejoice with us. This rejoicing is about experiencing the other as if we were them. It is a very intimate sharing that belongs to the human I Am which gives us the ability to stand in the reality of each other’s experience.
Then verse seven should read: there will be more joy in heaven over one person who changes their mind metanoia (repent) about missing the target – the target being to connect up with our I Am – than the 99 who HAVE echo (this word does not mean need) no repentance; they are those who cannot change their way of thinking.