Matt. 18:12-14 – Leaving Behind The 99 Sheep
I’ve always wondered about this parable, at the wisdom of leaving behind the other 99 to find the one lost sheep. In that I often find myself “shepherding” 40 six-year-olds through the minefield, which is computing, I’m often faced with the split second decision to make the 37 to 38 wait while I take time to get the two or three lost “sheep” back in the fold. And at the end of a class session I generally feel pretty good when I sense that 30 out of the 40 made it all the way through the lesson. We’re not dealing with “lost souls” here, but for me I have to judge whether it’s worth making the whole class wait for a few to catch up and risk “losing them,” which then costs more time to gather them up together. So, when I read about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one, my first thought is whether this seemed strange to the first century listeners or not. Was the point of the story not the “logic” of looking for the lost one, but a New Kingdom truth hidden here?
A few variables in understanding make a difference. In the story, if the 99 were safely left “on the hill” while the shepherd looks for the lost one, that makes a difference. That’s not how things tend to work in the classroom. One can only say “work quietly amongst yourselves” only so many times while one rescues the lost few before chaos reigns. Thus, I’m left to see something deeper than a math problem of risking the safely of 99 for the salvation of one. The fact is that all are important to the Father and not one will be lost, the good shepherd will not lose a single one, which was probably very different for the average “track record” of shepherds in those days. The story isn’t about the logic of seeking one out 99, but how all are valued by our Heavenly Father even the one who manages to get itself lost. Thank God for that, or I would still be out there lost and not even aware that I was lost. JBB 2/14/2005