For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
I. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ARE THE SPECIAL CHARGE OF HOLY ANGELS.
1. The universe is dual, having material and spiritual complements.
(1) Matter has characteristic properties. The properties of spirit are no less characteristic and distinct.
(2) Between the complements subsist mutual relations and interactions. The conflicts of the moral and invisible are propagated outward into the physical and visible. So contrariwise.
2. In this system holy angels have special relations to good men.
(1) Angels have a commission of guardianship (cf. Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14). Probably they see the countenance of the Father in the countenance of the children. Note: Evil angels sustain corresponding relations to bad men.
(2) The ancient notion may have countenance here, viz. that each individual has a peculiar guardian angel. Corresponding to the holy guardian is the "familiar spirit" of the wicked.
3. They cannot with impunity be despised whose guardians are so influential.
(2) It is perilous to be at enmity with those who are so attended. "Angels that excel in strength." The stronger angels have charge of the weaker saints. Those who would not offend the holy angels should imitate them in their care of little ones.
II. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ENJOY THE SPECIAL FAVOUR OF GOD.
1. Those who have the angels of God for their angels have the God of angels for their God. This honour is superlative.
2. Some interpret the "angels of the little ones to be the disembodied spirits of the sailors, which do always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven."
(1) They argue that guardian angels cannot" always" be "in heaven" and yet ministering to their charge on earth.
(2) What the disciples in John Mark's prayer meeting thought to be Peter's spirit, they called "his angel" (Acts 12:15).
(3) The reason why we should not despise the little ones, viz. that their angels see God, reminds us that the pure in heart alone can see God.
(4) In this view the" angels of God," in whose presence" there is joy over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10), will be "the spirits of just men made perfect." For the context in Luke shows that this is a parallel case.
3. Those whose disembodied spirits would be honoured with the vision of God cannot be despised with impunity.
(1) The little ones of Christ are despised by corrupting them. By failing to edify them. They are despised when innocency and simplicity are treated as weaknesses.
(2) Those guilty of despising them will encounter the resistance of the will of God. "It is not the will," etc. (cf. ver. 14; Ezekiel 18:23). If there be joy in heaven for the finding of one of the little ones turned out of the way, there is wrath in heaven for the offending of them.
(3) "As God wilt be displeased with the enemies of his Church if they wrong any of the members of it, so he is displeased with the great ones of the Church if they despise the little ones" (Henry).
III. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ARE THE SPECIAL SOLICITUDE OF CHRIST. In the parable of the sheep we have:
1. The flock.
(1) Holy angels are included in its unity (cf. Hebrews 12:22). These are by some accounted to be the "ninety and nine who went not astray."
(2) The ministration of angels is founded on the mediation of Christ. This is expressed in the words, "For the Son of man," etc., relegated, however, to the margin in the Revised Version. So in the vision of Jacob's ladder (cf. Genesis 28:12; John 1:51). Through Christ the holy angels are reconciled to us.
(3) The ninety and nine who went not astray may be such as the scribes and Pharisees of the better sort; not the hypocrites, but those who, like the elder brother, never left their Father's house - those whose respect for the Law kept them from committing gross offences.
2. The wanderer.
(1) The sheep sees better herbage at a distance, and wanders after it; then discovers more yet farther off; wanders by degrees further and further; mistakes the way back, and is lost in the wilderness. So the soul wanders from pleasure to pleasure, and gets lost.
(2) Now the sheep is exposed to the dangers of the lion or the wolf, the ditch or the precipice, and is in wretchedness and terror.
3. The Shepherd.
(1) He cares for those in the fold. They have his care in the provision of food, as well as shelter and protection. We should sympathize with Christ in striving to keep his sheep (see Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11, 12). As he is the great Shepherd, having many sheep, so is he the good Shepherd, knowing each lamb.
(2) He cares especially for the wanderer. It is the shepherd's duty to look more particularly after the stray sheep than after those abiding in the fold. Jesus, who came to save a world, makes special efforts to save even one. The whole flock suffers when one sheep wanders.
(3) "if so be that he find it." The finding of a sinner is a contingent event. Grace is not irresistible. Yet the wanderer should know that the Shepherd is very near him. Are we as anxiously seeking Jesus as he is seeking us?
(4) The tender sheep is not driven, but carried by Christ. "And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders" (see Luke 15:5). He carries us and our sins.
(5) Jesus rejoices over the conversion of a sinner, as a shepherd over a recovered sheep; as a woman over a recovered piece of silver; as a father over a recovered son. The rejoicing affects heaven as well as the Church on earth. It is natural to feel uncommon joy at the fortunate accomplishment of an unexpected event.
4. The enemy. Those who would injure the sheep of Christ are special objects of his displeasure.
(1) The nations that injured Israel of old were severely reckoned with.
(2) The antichristian nations who persecuted his people are doomed to a fearful retribution.
(3) Every contemptuous son of pride will be confronted at the judgment of the last day. - J.A.M.
If a man have an hundred sheep.1. The image under which it pleases God to describe His creatures upon earth, "Sheep" "gone astray."
2. What is said as to the dealings of God with His creatures under these circumstances, "seeketh," etc.
3. The feelings with which the Shepherd is described as regarding the sheep when found, "He rejoiceth more," etc.
4. The general deduction which our gracious Saviour draws from these several particulars "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."(1) What a conception does this text lead us to form of the character of God our Redeemer.(2) What an encouragement does the doctrine of the text supply as to our dealings with others.
(J. W. Cunningham.)I. WHO ARE THEY that are here described as persons lost, and what is meant by the expression? Our blessed Saviour means all who did not receive Him as the messenger and interpreter of the Divine will to mankind.
II. IN WHAT SENSE OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR IS HERE SAID TO HAVE COME TO SAVE MANKIND.(1) He came to instruct mankind in the true and the whole nature of the Divine will:(2) to show, in His own example, that human nature is capable of such a degree of perfection, as will make us fit objects of the Divine favour:(3) to make a satisfaction for us upon the cross, such as showed that God would not pardon the sins of men unless His justice was satisfied; and, therefore, Christ's suffering and death upon this account were a full and proper satisfaction made to the Divine justice for the sins of such as were till then lost to the benefits of eternal life.
III. How FAR SHOULD THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST, IN THIS PARTICULAR OF SAVING THAT WHICH WAS LOST, BE IMITATED BY US. The natural means, those of instruction and of example, which He made use of in His life-time for reforming mankind, and improving their morals, these are what we may copy after Him.
Expository Outlines.I. A NEEDFUL CAUTION. "Take heed that ye despise not," etc.
1. To despise them is fearfully dangerous.
2. The interest taken in them by the highest intelligences should prevent us from thinking lightly of them.
3. The high destiny which awaits them.
II. A BLESSED ANNOUNCEMENT. "For the Son of Man is come," etc.
1. The title assumed.
2. The act declared, not merely to improve, but to save.
3. The miserable objects regarded.
III. A FAMILIAR COMPARISON. "HOW think ye" (ver. 12). These words may be considered:
1. In their literal signification. The recovery of lost property is a principle of human nature.
2. In their spiritual allusion.
IV. AS ENCOURAGING INFERENCE. "Even so it is not the will of My Father," etc.
1. The harmony that existed between the mission of Christ and the purposes of the Eternal Father.
2. If it is not the, will of God that the most despised and insignificant believer should perish, their salvation is assured.
(Expository Outlines.)I. A PROOF AND STATEMENT OF THE SAVIOUR'S WORK AND ERRAND.
1. One feature of the mediatorial character is particularly displayed in the very name in which the Saviour is introduced to our attention, "the Son of Man."
2. These words point out the fact of the Saviour's incarnation, "The Son of Man is come."
3. This description of the object of His coming we may contrast with another, when He comes a second time into this our world.
II. VIEW THE SAVIOUR'S ERRAND AND WORK AS IT IS EXHIBITED TO US IN THAT FIGURATIVE ILLUSTRATION THAT FOLLOWS THE TEXT,
1. He represents the state of the guilty sinner whom He came into the world to save under the idea of a wandering sheep. Prone to wander.
2. The care and kindness of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Manifests particular care over case of individual sinner.
3. Christ's search for the lost embraces all the means used for the salvation of sinners.
4. He carries back the sheep when He has found it. To prevent exposure to danger.
5. His joy.
III. THE GREAT PRINCIPLE OF THE DIVINE CONDUCT THAT IS DEVELOPED IN THE WORK TO WHICH WE HAVE TURNED YOUR ATTENTION, "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven," etc.
1. The connection that is here obviously formed between the end in view, and the means for the accomplishment of that end.
2. In redemption the will of the Father and Son are equal.
3. The work of Christ was designed to accomplish that intention, and is efficacious to its accomplishment.
4. Magnify the fulness of Christ's work.
5. Have you learnt that your characters are that of lost sheep?
(R. H. Cooper.)I. He is the Shepherd of the flock.
II. His love is impartially shown to all who are in the fold.
III. The salvation of the least is worth all the efforts of the highest.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. Let us notice THE CONSOLATION in His comparing them with sheep who have gone astray.
1. It reveals to us how dear every single soul is to the Lord.
2. He misses each sheep as soon as it is lost.
3. He will leave the ninety and nine on the mountains and hunt for only one that has gone astray.
4. He rejoices over the one that is found.
II. FOR WHAT DOES IT RENDER US RESPONSIBLE?
1. That we keep watch over those who are liable to go astray.
2. The shepherd-faithfulness of our Lord renders you responsible for compassion on the lost.
3. Also for active, zealous seeking and leading home all who are willing to be saved.
4. It requires us to rejoice over every one who lets himself be saved.
(T. Christlieb, D. D.)I. THE FIGURE OF THE ONE WANDERER
1. All men are Christ's sheep. All men are Christ's because He has created them. "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
2. The picture of the sheep as wandering, "which goeth astray." It pictures the process of wandering; not the result as accomplished. The sheep has gone astray, though when it set out on its journey it never thought of straying; more mischief is wrought from want of thought than by an evil will.
3. The progressive character of our wanderings from God. A man never gets to the end of the distance that separates between him and the Father if his face is turned away from God. Every moment the separation is increasing.
4. The contrast between the description given of the wandering sheep in our text and in St. Luke. Here it is represented as wandering, there it is represented as lost. God wants to possess us through our love; if He does not we are lost to Him.
II. THE PICTURE OF THE SEEKER. The incarnation of Christ was for the seeking of man.
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