12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
Read also Ezekiel 34 which may be the scriptural reference that Jesus would have used.
Let's consider the characters of this passage briefly and see what can be learned from their actions.
The Lost Sheep
How does the dictionary define "lost"?
1. no longer possessed or retained:
2. no longer to be found:
3. having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.:
4. not used to good purpose, as opportunities, time, or labor;wasted:
a lost advantage.
5. being something that someone has failed to win:
a lost prize.
What does a lost sheep look like?
When I think of a lost sheep I think of a poor helpless four legged cotton ball wandering off getting stuck in a rut or ravine and not being able to get back to the fold. Lost, weary, scared, unsure and vulnerable the sheep just lays down where it is and gives up. The lost sheep are much more vulnerable and if found by the lion or wolf will be quickly devoured.
The 99 Sheep
What do the sheep that the shepherd left behind look like?
The 99 are cared for and loved. They are under the protection of the shepherd even while he is away.In Jesus' time, it was understood that a shepherd would be tending his flock in the proximity of other shepherds and if there was ever a need they could ask each other for assistance with watching each others flocks.The sheep in the fold may not always realize the protection that they receive unless they do wander away or unless they consider what happened to other sheep that wandered away. While under the care of the shepherd, the 99 do what he shows them to do so that they can stay safe; this is obedience and the real reason for obedience. They go where he tells them to go.
What does the Shepherd look like?
The Shepherd is the protector of the sheep. He is responsible for their survival. He is responsible for their well being, for leading them to sustenance and places of rest. When the sheep are in his presence they can feel secure and cared for because they see the actions that the shepherd takes to secure and care for them. The shepherd works to train the sheep to trust him so that they will listen to him and do what he says. This makes it easier for him to keep them safe from lions, or pitfalls and other life threatening situations.
How have I been a lost sheep?
I was once a lost sheep. Jesus continued to watch for me and look for me and knock on the door to my heart the whole time, but for years I ignored Him and did my own thing.
I was lost in such a way that I was actually running away from the Shepherd because I thought I was a pretty darn smart sheep. I wasn't like the other sheep because I didn't need a shepherd to survive. I was fully convinced that I could take care of myself and those other sheep were just weaklings who didn't have a clue. I even sought to convince myself that there really wasn't a shepherd. But He kept searching...
I saw this beautiful tuft of grass on another hill that the shepherd was not leading us to. I thought to myself;
"Why doesn't the shepherd want us to go enjoy that certainly tasty green tuft of grass"? He never seems to want us to have any of the good things to eat. That's not fair! How could that grass do anything but taste good and fill my little sheep belly with yummy tastiness?"
But, as I wandered mesmerized by the idea of eating that beautiful green grass, I got myself stuck in a swamp that surrounded the hill. I hadn't noticed the swamp was there. I struggled but I couldn't move much and was just stuck there, not thriving. Luckily I was stuck in a place with plenty of grass around so that I was able to survive. Every once in awhile I would think about the shepherd, but I knew that I would find a way out of the swamp and then the tuft of grass would be mine.
Then the lion showed up. I was so bewildered by my stuck condition that I thought he might be able to help me out. He pulled me out of the swamp and told me that he could help me to get that tuft of grass. However, he led me down a path to a corral instead and told me that I needed training to reach the tuft of grass. He shut me up in that corral and then began to feed me his tasty things.
The food and the drink were so enticing and full of flavor, and there was alluring music with every meal. I was allowed to do anything I wanted in my corral and I loved it! As time went on my corral started to stink. I wasn't very good at taking care of myself and the lion only kept feeding me fun and yummy things. I was becoming a fat little sheep and my wool was all matted and dirty and I really didn't like it. All the fun seemed so important but it confused me and I started to wonder if the shepherd might know what to do to help me get cleaned up. I started to wonder if maybe the lion was feeding me all these wonderful things just so he could fatten me up and eat me later.
At this time the lion changed tactics. While increasing the amount of fun and tasty treats, he started to mix it with cruelty. Sometimes he would give me great amounts of beautiful fattening foods, and other times he would take it all away laughing as I lay helplessly hungry. Sometimes he would poke me with a stick through the bars of my corral so that I felt pain and he would giggle to watch me suffer. Then one day he came with a sharp knife and he actually cut a large hole into my chest, straight to my heart. Though I was technically alive, the pain was unbearable. The very next day the lion came back and with a big smile on his face poured salt on my wound. The pain was so consuming that I just wanted to die. I lay in my corral helpless and broken.
Then a small bird landed on the bars of my corral and he whispered in my ear,
"The shepherd was good to you. He LOVED you."
,and I remembered what it had been like with the shepherd. Peaceful, comfortable, and safe - and I wanted it back again. I wanted it so bad that I bleated out at the top of my little sheep lungs,
"SAVE ME Good Shepherd! Save me from the lion. Forgive me for ever leaving You!"
All I wanted was for the Shepherd to hear me. And He did.
The lion also heard this plea and he immediately came with knife in hand ready to kill me once and for all. But the Good Shepherd quickly came in time to knock the lion down with his staff. The lion was immediately defeated, damaged and bruised, he crawled away on his belly. The Good Shepherd picked me up in his arms and lovingly began to walk me out of the corral.
But wouldn't you know it! I got scarred when we started to leave the corral. I begged the Good Shepherd,
"Do we have to leave the corral? Can't you stay here with me in the corral so I can still enjoy the tasty things it has to offer?"
,and I jumped out of His hands and back into the corral. But now things were different. He talked to me through the bars and told me how nice it was to be with the other sheep. Over time he helped me to see how dirty I was becoming from all the things I was doing in the corral. He reminded me that he could wash my wool clean and help me to keep it that way. At times the lion would try to sneak back but I would ask the Good Shepherd to chase him away and He always would. Slowly, very slowly, I became uninterested in the corral and as time went on it started to feel more like a prison than a safe place to be. I remembered the wonderful comfort of being in the Good Shepherds arms and I started to long to always be in them. I remembered how it felt to be with other sheep who were also under the care and protection of the Good Shepherd. So I went to the gate of the corral and pushed against it with all my own strength, but I couldn't get out.
Panic began to set in; but I remembered that the Good Shepherd could help me. So I asked Him to open the gate for me, and he did! Hallelujah! Free at last.
Now I revel in the company of the Good Shepherd. I love being a part of His flock. I love knowing that He is there to protect me and that He will always help me to accomplish great sheepy things. He always feeds me only those things that are good and wholesome for me. Sometimes I think of the corral, but now I see it for the prison that it was. I do slip and fall at times and I do get distracted by tasty green tufts of grass. My wool gets dirty, but the Good Shepherd is always there to pick me up and clean me up and help me to be a better sheep because now I want only to run to him.
Have you strayed away from the Good Shepherd? Do you feel the need for His loving arms? Do you want to spend time with His flock? Fill out the comment section of this blog post and let me know your interested in learning more. We can talk, share and learn together - no strings attached. Jesus is calling you. He is knocking on the door of your heart. You don't have to stay in the corral...