Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 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
This parable gives us one of the most popular and beloved images of God in the entire Bible: God as our shepherd. But that is not its primary intent. In fact, this parable is really quite an insult to us. After all, a sheep is a dumb animal! Did you know that a sheep has a natural instinct not just to get lost, but left to itself, the sheep will lose its way every single time? Even when a shepherd goes out to find the sheep, the sheep will constantly work against that shepherd, to make itself lost repeatedly! In other words, a sheep will contribute nothing to its own rescue and contribute everything to its own lostness!
So in order to keep the sheep from continuing to lose its way, and to keep the sheep from fighting against the shepherd, there is only one way to get that sheep safely home. The shepherd must literally throw the sheep on the ground, tie the sheep up, throw the sheep over his shoulder, and carry him every step of the way. This is what we are being taught in this parable. Like lost sheep, we too have gone astray. Like lost sheep, we too need to be constantly rescued. Like lost sheep, we contribute nothing to our own rescue and everything to our own lostness. As our Shepherd, Jesus tells us, He has does it all! To put it another way, our rescue is all by His grace! That is the kind of shepherd we need.
But there is more: And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Notice it does not say, the shepherd called his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, my sheep has found his way home!’ No, the text tells us that the shepherd is the one who found his sheep, and that the shepherd joyfully carries the sheep home. That is exactly what God does. As our Shepherd, He not only finds us, tie us up, put us on his shoulder and carries us every step of the way—He does so joyfully! He loves you that much!
Prayer: Dear Lord, may we know the joy of our being rescued by You! May we take heart in knowing Your graciousness of continuing to rescue us time and time again. May we be reminded that while our salvation is free—it is never cheap. It cost you everything. May we know that you are with us every step of the way. May we know that you love us. Amen.
Dr. Dave Lescalleet serves as the Director Chaplaincy for PruittHealth.