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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God has sent the Good Shepherd from heaven; from the beautiful, perfect, glorious heaven, He sent His Son. The Son leaves all in search of my soul. All of heaven packed into the Good Shephard for one soul, mine or yours. We can accept Him or turn away. One thing is for sure, He will continue to seek us out until we hear His voice and rejoice in our salvation. All of heaven rejoices at the same time. PTL.
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.
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]
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.
I am willing to bet that many 'modern' Christians feel like one of the 'ninety-nine' left to the 'hirelings' (who always flee when trouble comes, John 10:13), while Christ, (our 'Good Shepherd'), appears quite busy doing something else outside of our conscious perception. Why would GOD leave us in the hands of people who don't even believe in Him? We do, after all, live in a 'secular' age where something called 'universal tolerance' is the standard practice and current form of world authority. The 'wolf' is even capable of threatening to annihilate everyone with nuclear weapons. Where is the 'Good Shepherd' when we need Him? You can be sure He is busy looking for the one 'lost sheep' left wandering outside of His Holy Church. That 'sheep' isn't a single individual, of course. Rather 'he' is many people lost in faithless wanderings while still distantly intuiting that they aren't where they truly belong. They are waiting to hear their Master's familiar voice and 'come home.' Yet, if this 'sheep' is far outside of the Church, the Shepherd must temporarily lay aside His rod and His staff and journey down into the lowest valleys or up into the high hills where food is scarce, natural enemies are everywhere, and danger is constant from natural 'extremes.' When He does find the 'sheep' He cannot yet 'rejoice' either, because the rebellious spirit that drove him there still remains and then so does the dangerous journey back 'home.' Shepherds learned that they must break the leg of their 'black sheep' and carry him back while it heals. Afterwards, the once rebellious sheep would remain forever by His side as His new 'bellwether,' equipped with a bell around his neck to guide all of the other sheep and alert them constantly to the exact location and presence of their Master. No more 'hirelings' and fear after that event happens. We will ALWAYS know EXACTLY where the 'Good Shepherd' is from then on. "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, overseeing not under compulsion, but willingly, according to God; and not for dishonest gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:1-4). While we can't go with Him as He searches, we can 'help' by serving willingly within the Church, rather than 'by constraint,' (like Jonah did against his will). We can carry the right attitude with us; the same one passionately driving our Lord out into the 'wilderness' to find His lost ones. It contains no excuses, grumbling or disputing, and requires no 'extra motivation' from money or fame. It needs no personal accolades or feeling of superiority to maintain its zeal. That is why when the 'lost sheep' returns 'home,' we will greet him with genuine joy. Who is he? "For I do not want you, brothers, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” (Romans 11:25-27). "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15). That would be our 'unfading crown of glory' mentioned above, (1 Peter 5:4).
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