Jump Start # 3135
Luke 15:4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?”
Our verse today opens the triplet parables about lost and found. Lost sheep. Lost coin. Lost boys. The value and intensity seems to increase with each story. Open fields, in the house, and finally, in the heart. These parables were the Lord’s response and answer as to why He ate with sinners. There was a reason. This is the reason. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.
Being a city person, I have always found this first parable a bit troubling. If one sheep got lost while the shepherd was there, what will happen to the ninety-nine when he leaves them to go looking for the one lost sheep? Won’t the ninety-nine wander away as well?
Three remarkable lessons for shepherds today and all of us are found here:
First, the shepherd recognized that one was missing. A hundred sheep is a lot. It’s easy for one to be missing and not be noticed. Not to this shepherd. He noticed. He must have done a head count. I expect he did a head count often. And, now one was gone. He knew it. He may have counted the sheep a few more times just to be sure.
Among us, are some missing and we don’t realize it? Do we notice? Head counts are important just to see who is where they ought to be. When I was a kid, I remember a statement that came on every evening before the ten-o-clock news. It was, “Parents, it’s ten-o-clock, do you know where your children are?” That was usually the call for me to go to bed. Not knowing where your children are is alarming. Not knowing where some of the sheep are ought to be just as alarming. This is much, much more than about attendance. This is about where one is with Jesus. Attendance may be the outward visible sign that we notice, but inwardly, is the person still with the Lord? A sheep was missing and the shepherd noticed!
Second, the shepherd did something. He went after the lost sheep. He didn’t wait for the sheep to return. He didn’t just pray about the sheep. He went on a journey looking. He likely retraced where they had been. He must have had an idea where the sheep was. I don’t think he just randomly headed north and then turned east, then south, and finally west. He understood the nature of sheep and likely thought the sheep was probably still grazing in an area that they had passed through. He went searching and he found.
I wonder if these days we just expect the lost sheep to return on their own. No search party is launched. Nothing is said. Nothing is done. All is quiet until the sheep returns, if he ever does that. Maybe we need to be more diligent in looking for what was lost. The book of James ends with, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). A sheep was missing. The shepherd noticed. The shepherd went looking.
Third, the shepherd had compassion upon the sheep when it was found. The next verse in Luke 15 reveals that the shepherd put the sheep on his shoulders. I envision, the sheep wrapped around the shepherd’s neck. He didn’t beat the sheep home. He didn’t scold and shame the sheep. He didn’t add layers of guilt. He didn’t threaten the sheep. He extended compassion, love and care.
Could it be that the wayward sheep today would like to come home but they are afraid? They are afraid of the way the rest will treat them. The questions. The stares. The whispers. The tension. Little compassion. No putting on the shoulders. No love. And, with that atmosphere, some never come home. They feel bad enough, the church will only make them feel worse.
The shepherd knew. The shepherd did something. The shepherd extended compassion. And, the lost was found. Such simple truths, but so profound in making a difference for everyone.