3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:3 - 7
ESV - 3 So he told them this parable: 4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
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I have never been a shepherd, but I would say that the priorities of the shepherd in the parable would have been based on the relative safety to each sheep provided by the flock formation (in which, it seems to me, sheep would "naturally", or by a "herd" instinct, have remained -- or wanted to remain -- for as long as it would take the shepherd to find the missing sheep), and in a location where they would previously have been guided by the shepherd (implying the availablity of nourishment (grass) and water), versus the greater relative susceptibility to external danger, or to death from a lack of sustenance, that would occur for the one straying sheep as a result of being separated from the flock.
One thing to note, since it is a parable, is that all of the details of the story are controlled by Jesus and, since the story is made up to illustrate a point, he doesn't always relate them to real-life actions. Jesus often uses details in the story to shock his audience and get them to engage at a deeper level. It seems in this case he wants to point out just how important each sheep is to the shepherd (God) and that the "Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law" should be doing everything they can to reach the lost (tax collectors and sinners). We should note that Luke calls this entire section as "this parable." One parable with three parts: 100 sheep/1 lost; 10 coins/1 lost; 2 sons/1 lost. The entire parable is driving the listener like an arrow to a point. Kenneth Bailey has noted that in "this parable" you have one sheep lost outside the house - in the wilderness. You have the coin lost - inside the house. And then you have 2 sons. One is lost "outside" in the wilderness while the other, the older brother, and presumably directed at the Pharisees and teachers of the law, are lost "inside" the Father's house. The Pharisees are with God but they too have lost their way. Finally, in each episode, there is rejoicing and a party to welcome home the one that was lost. How does the older brother react? He's mad. How are the Pharisees reacting to Jesus reaching out to the tax collectors and sinners? They are mad. One lesson of the entire parable is that, as we grow longer in our years of walking in our own faith as a Christian, to not allow ourselves to become like the older brother. We need to always rejoice when that which was lost is now found.
They were not left unattended. We tend to/as a general rule suppose that there was only 1 shepherd, but an ancient Near Eastern shepherd would seldom go out alone with 100 sheep. If a sheep was lost, the lead shepherd would leave the rest of the flock safe and content with hired hands, while he went to search for the lost sheep. Jesus does not abandon His followers, but He zealously seeks the lost. Our church choir director's wife recently sang this song or hymn, rather, which touched me because I was "that one lost sheep!" 1 Safe were the ninety and nine in the fold Safe, though the night was stormy and cold But said the shepherd when counting them o'er “One sheep is missing, there should be one more!” Refrain: The Shepherd went out to search for His sheep And all thro' the night on the rocky steep He sought till he found him With love bands he bound him And I was that one lost sheep 2 Although His feet were weary and worn And though His hands were rent and torn E'en tho' the road was rugged and steep Still the Good Shepherd sought long for his sheep [Refrain] 3 There in the night He heard a faint cry From the lost sheep just ready to die Then in His arms to shield from the cold He brought the lost one safe back to the fold [Refrain]
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