So Jesus told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it . . . Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Luke 15:4, 7
There are two parts to this parable. The first is Jesus equating God to a shepherd, who searches for one of his sheep that is lost. The second part is about the joy and celebration that takes place over the return of that one sheep.
We have all lost items, but if we are honest we have geared our efforts to find the item, based on its value to us. There are a lot of things I have lost, that I haven’t put much effort into finding, but I have given a lot of effort to looking for something that is important to me. I have even on those occasions called upon my wife to look, since she is more likely to find it than me.
But, my attitude towards searching for something is not how it is played out in this parable. The shepherd has 100 sheep. One lost sheep is only one percent of the flock. I’m not sure I would put a lot of effort into looking for just one percent of something I had a lot of. However, in this parable it is very clear that God, who is typified by the shepherd, is not willing to lose even one sheep. In other words, every single sheep is of importance to God.
Of course this parable really isn’t about sheep. I haven’t had a lot of experience with sheep. I’ve petted a few at the Royal Winter Fair and I once watched my dog chase a whole herd of sheep onto a farmer’s lawn. I’ve had a little more experience with humans and quite frankly, we are pretty good at getting lost. And, I confess that there are times when I get exasperated with people who seem determined to head off in the wrong direction. But, God doesn’t seem to be too hung up about that. He is determined to find his sheep and bring them back into the fold. And, when God does find them, there is a huge celebration.
I think the other important point in this parable, is that unlike the found sheep, who hasn’t really changed its mind about wandering away, the person referenced in the last verse is someone who has changed their mind. The Greek word translated repent carries with it two important part to its meaning. The first part is to change your mind, to view something differently and the second part of the meaning is to have some regret about the original viewpoint. In other words, the person who is found now sees things differently and regrets how they saw things in the past – this is “repentance.”
So, since I am pretty sure that this email will be read by the ninety-nine sheep, I leave you with this thought – God loves you so much, that if you were the one sheep, He would be out there looking for you right now!
Come experience more at The Sunday Gathering: 10:30am for food and fellowship and 11:00am for worship and inspiration.