So, who exactly are these righteous sheep who need no repentance?
Pastor Jaynan Clark
According to Jesus there is a whole flock of righteous sheep—99 to be exact—who need no repentance; at least they don’t think they do and they think they are…. Righteous, that is. Often called the parable of the Lost Sheep, I have been near vomiting many times as I listened to writers of secondary sources—and even preachers—explain away the cutting edge of Jesus’ story. They comfort those in the pews with the knowledge that the shepherd would never knowingly leave them in an unsafe position as he bounds off to get the real rascal, the lost one. Others remind those listening ears that this is really a parable about church attendance. Yawn. So one is to be comforted when counted among the super majority who are righteous and need no repentance?? Talk about itchy ears wanting to hear the false teachings of preachers peddling a false gospel of self-celebration and not the Word of God.
Knowing you are lost is the truth of the matter that lets God be God so you can temporarily stop playing the part. Rejoicing that Jesus came out looking for a lost, sinful sheep like you who obviously needed repentance is true worship indeed. Knowing that “lostness” is your identity and “foundness” is Jesus’ sole/soul doing for you is music to any little lamb’s ears. However, the sheep need a repentant preacher to preach it.
Left listening to the false teachers and preachers, the sheep soon congregate to hear other “truths” and, one vote at a time, they come to believe they are not so bad. In fact, not only am I o.k. but you are o.k., too. Pretty soon, believing they are righteous and not in need of repentance is not even thought to be a stretch. Sin, after all, is a downer and the new 4-letter word in these so called “churches” who believe tolerance and acceptance is the new Christian love and unity trumps truth.
I know lots of people who think they are righteous. They are very sure-footed and walk proudly, beckoning many to follow. They wrongly believe that there is a divine spark of goodness inside them. They claim to be Christians, even Lutherans, but reject the major fundamental teaching that Jesus “is” our righteousness and so it is alien, outside ourselves. The only kind of “self righteousness” is that which believes that it dwells within the self.
I know many who think they are not in need of repentance. They can easily point out the sins of others but do not regard their own as worthy of repentance, for it is not sin at all but identity to be celebrated. Ironically, my computer spell check just reminded me in a quite prophetic technological slip that “lots” spelled incorrectly automatically converts to “lost.” So be it. Jesus did care very much about numbers and He was always gut-wrenchingly honest and heart ripping, too, as He reminded us that remnants can number two or three when gathered in His name. And He is impressed enough with such a gathering to be present among them—all three of them.
Who are the 99 righteous who need no repentance? I have to confess that I think, back then as now, they are probably “church people.” Blind to their own “lostness” they continue celebrating their righteous “foundness”—finding it in themselves. I’m reminded of a quote by Thomas Fuller, “He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil.” Too harsh? I think not.
We now are further tortured by long processions with flowing robes led by the cross of Christ and carrying the Holy Bible to the front of a church in order to celebrate full and open expression of one’s deepest desires with adorned church leaders blessing, ordaining and holding this up as exemplary living. Obviously there are more than 99 gathering in such places that they call the church of Jesus Christ, while they rigidly stand and declare that theirs is not a matter in need of repentance and shame on those of us who would dare to say so. So be it. Such institutions with their tassels, miters, stoles and processions come and go, adorned with and without the cross. But the true Hidden Church of our Crucified Lord and Savior will stand against even the gates of Hell, so confused contextual ethics is no matter of consequence. His Word is clear, it has been revealed in person, and we as sinners continue to try to kill it. Nothing new here. But it is the Living and Eternal Word of God that will have its way with even the proud and unyielding.
It shall be the “lost found ones”—one at a time, outnumbered, looked down upon and regarded as lowly—who will stand up and speak against such unholy unity of voice. One “lost found one” at a time will come to know their place and strain to hear the voice of the one Good Shepherd above the howling.
I know my place—it is a rather odd seat of honor. Life is different on the Shepherd’s shoulders. Though it is no place of comfort and He takes me where I would rather not go, I know that if He puts me down I’m a goner. I’ll be once again in need of being found… in other words, lost. Like a small child, no stroller is good enough, too easily abandoned. No hand is tight enough, for the crowd presses in all around and it is a sea of knees and feet and shadows. His shoulders are the safe though embarrassing place as others gawk, point, whisper and declare the lost one has been returned—again. So be it!
Being lifted onto the shoulders of the One who loves you to death, His own, is music to your ears—it sounds ever so much like an angel choir. Being found in need of repentance is pure gift, for it puts one sheep at a time in their place. It’s not a “right”ful place; it is a “grace”ful one.
I prefer the view from Jesus’ shoulders and I intend to make it ever so difficult for Him to put me down. God willing, through preaching and teaching I will join others on His shoulders as we call out to His sheep—wandering and lost—that home is one lift away.
He alone is your righteousness, and repentance is His gift to you. Don’t let any so-called church and its leaders snatch it from you. They will abandon you to your own false righteousness and unrepentant self. To do so is not the work of the church of Jesus Christ, and to sell it as such is a matter of grave importance that brings with it consequences.