“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance” (Luke 15:1-10)

2nd century mosaic of the Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome.  This is perhaps the oldest known image of Christ.
2nd century mosaic of the Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome. This is perhaps one of the oldest known images of Christ.

Ἦσαν δὲ ἐγγίζοντες αὐτῷ πάντες οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοί ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ. Καὶ διεγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς λέγοντες ὅτι οὗτος ἁμαρτωλοὺς προσδέχεται καὶ συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς. Εἶπε δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγων· τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν ἔχων ἑκατὸν πρόβατα, καὶ ἀπολέσας ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν, οὐ καταλείπει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ πορεύεται ἐπὶ τὸ ἀπολωλός ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό; καὶ εὑρὼν ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ χαίρων, καὶ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὸν οἶκον συγκαλεῖ τοὺς φίλους καὶ τοὺς γείτονας λέγων αὐτοῖς· συγχάρητέ μοι ὅτι εὗρον τὸ πρόβατόν μου τὸ ἀπολωλός. λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτω χαρὰ ἔσται ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι ἢ ἐπὶ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα δικαίοις, οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας.

Ἢ τίς γυνὴ δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα, ἐὰν ἀπολέσῃ δραχμὴν μίαν, οὐχὶ ἅπτει λύχνον καὶ σαροῖ τὴν οἰκίαν καὶ ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς ἕως ὅτου εὕρῃ; καὶ εὑροῦσα συγκαλεῖ τὰς φίλας καὶ τὰς γείτονας λέγουσα· συγχάρητέ μοι ὅτι εὗρον τὴν δραχμὴν ἣν ἀπώλεσα. οὕτω, λέγω ὑμῖν, χαρὰ γίνεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι.

Luke 15:1-10, Patriarchal Text

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. But the Pharisees and scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So Jesus told them this parable. Which one of you, if you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that was lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing! Coming home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance.

Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins and lost one, would not light a lamp, sweep the house, and look hard until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma coin which I had lost!’Likewise, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:1-10, Eastern Orthodox Bible New Testament




The Lord was doing the very thing for which He became incarnate, drawing to Himself sinners and publicans, as a physician draws the sick. But the Pharisees, who were the real sinners, repaid His love for mankind with grumbling. They considered the publicans to be contemptible, even as they themselves were devouring what little the widows and orphans had. How did the Lord respond? He treated those who slandered His love for mankind with the same love that He showed to the publicans. He did not reject the Pharisees out of hand as incurable grumblers, but meekly tended to them, telling them the parable of the sheep to persuade them by what is clear and obvious, and to curb their vexation at His great outpouring of goodness. If there is such great joy at finding one irrational sheep, not made in the image of God, after it has gone astray, how much joy must there be over rational man, who was created in the image of God? The parable clearly says that the ninety and nine sheep are the righteous, and the one sheep is the sinner who has fallen away. But some say that the hundred sheep are the whole rational creation, and that the one rational sheep which went astray is man. The Good Shepherd sought it out, leaving the ninety and nine in the wilderness, that is, in heaven. For the wilderness, removed from worldly tumult and steeped in stillness and peace, signifies heaven. When the Lord found this erring sheep, He placed it upon His shoulders. For He Himself bore our infirmities and our sins, and He took upon Himself our burdens which to Him were light. He paid off all that we owed, and easily and without toil carried us off safely to His own home, that is, to heaven, and He calleth together His friends and neighbors, who signify the angels, whom we have also called sheep when considered from a different aspect. Inasmuch as all created nature is animal-like and brutish in comparison to God, in this sense the angelic powers may be called sheep. Yet inasmuch as the hosts of angelic powers are rational, intellectual beings, closer to God than any other created thing, in this sense they may also be understood as the friends and neighbors of God.

St. Theophylact of Ochrid, Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (tr. from the Greek by Fr. Christopher Stade; Chrysostom Press, 2004)




The one who strayed did so from the perfection of righteousness. For the Lord composed this parable for the sons of the Law. Alternatively, the one who strayed did so from the righteousness of nature [i.e. the Gentiles disobeyed natural law]. Or, he symbolized through the drachma the image of Adam. Why therefore, is there more joy for the sinners who repent than for the righteous who have not sinned [Luke 15:7]. Is it not because joy comes after sorrow? For, since there was sadness in them on account of their having sinned, there was joy when they repented. It is fitting to rejoice, because your brother was dead, and now he is alive [Luke 15:32]. Take note that both joy and sadness are passions of the soul. How then can there be expressions of both sadness and joy in heaven? Is it not because some are condemned on account of sins, that one can speak of sadness among the heavenly beings, so that we may suffer. If our sins cause the angels distress, how much more fitting is it that we do penance? This is like the passage, I regret that I have made human beings [Genesis 6:6-7].

St. Isaac the Syrian, Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron (tr. from the Syriac by Carmel McCarthy; Oxford University Press, 1993)


15:5 Καὶ εὑρὼν ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ χαίρων.

And when he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing!


Let us rejoice that the sheep which had strayed in Adam is lifted on Christ. The shoulders of Christ are the arms of the Cross. Rich is the Shepherd of Whom we are all the hundredth portion. He has innumerable flocks of angels, of archangels, of dominions, of powers, of thrones, of others whom He left on the mountains. Since these are rational, they fittingly rejoice in the salvation of men.

St. Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (tr. from the Latin by Theodosia Tomkinson; Center for Traditional Orthodox Studies, 1998)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s