The contrast between the scribes and Pharisees, who were indifferent to the plight of the lost, and God, who seeks them and rejoices when they are found, is striking. That those who claimed to officially represent God did not understand His mission or share His joy at the recovery of lost sinners reveals that their thinking was alien to His. The scribes and Pharisees lived within the narrow confines of superfi ciality and triviality while all around them souls were perishing. They were hypocrites, false shepherds who knew nothing of the compassionate, caring, loving heart of God; they were depicted by the ninety-nine self-righteous persons who saw no need for personal repentance and brought no joy to heaven.
The story also contains Christological overtones. God incarnate in Jesus Christ is the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14), who came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He has compassion on lost sinners, whom He likened to sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34), and bore the full burden of their restoration to God by laying down His life for them (John 10:11; cf. Isa. 53:4–6; 1 Peter 2:24–25).
MacArthur New Testament Commentary