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The Lost Sheep

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In the parable of the good shepherd, the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost one. [Matthew 18.10-14; Luke 15.3-6]  And when he finds it, he calls all his friends together to rejoice.

99 + 1 is 100.  The parable per say does not only speak of the way the Lord goes out to find the lost sheep so that it will be brought back.  It does not only just speak of the risk the Shepherd takes to leave the 99 in the field unguarded just to look for that one lost sheep.  For if the parable is just about finding the lost sheep, then the risks involved to the other 99 are too great.  For to go for the one that is lost is to risk the lost of the 99 you already have.  It does not make sense then, for indeed the shepherd may have a heart for the lost, but in the wording of the parable, he is also a foolish shepherd to risk 99 for one.

The basic understanding of this parable is designed to allow us to appreciate the love that the Lord has for the lost, that He is like the Shepherd who would leave the 99 to look for the one lost sheep, and that He rejoices over the one.  However, this parable, like all the others, carries with it meanings that are layered.  And as we come to know the Lord more and more, those layers are revealed.  First, the parables reveal what the kingdoms that they speak of are like, but as we come to know the Lord, these parables are designed to reveal the King of those kingdoms, as well as the work involved in those kingdoms.

If the shepherd needed to have exactly 100 sheep to take to the market to pay off, say, a debt, which 99 sheep could not, then you will see the reason behind the way the shepherd risks everything to find that last one.

100 often represents completeness or completion, that is, you have gone as far as you can go.  As in an exam, 100 marks is the perfect score.  As such, 100 represents the perfect or complete number as well.  If you are after perfection, the 99 will not do, but only 100.

Since the Lord is after perfection from His work, then a 99 fold return, as good as it is, will not suffice.  This is not about greed, but about being true to oneself.  As such, the parable also speaks of the way the Lord pursues perfection, and He will not rest until He achieves it, and indeed He will risk everything to acquire it.

It also speaks of the effort involved to find that one last sheep.  Experience tells us that it may take effort to bring in 30, 60 and even 90 sheep… but the closer we get to the 100, the harder it becomes and the greater effort it takes.  The world calls it the law of depreciating returns.  And that is why the world does not pursue perfection, but near perfection, for it costs too much.

We may be feeling neglected like the 99 sheep or worse, the one sheep, for we feel lost and the rescue of the Lord is nowhere to be found.  As such, this is just a little reminder and encouragement to one and all that the Lord is One who is making the effort to bring about the perfect ending to the church age for the glory of the Lord.  And whether we are the 99 or the one, we can all help Him by making that extra effort to hold onto what we have and to make the effort, that extraordinary effort, to help Him achieve the 100 (sheep) fold.

When we first started this journey, I told you all we are climbing the mountain of the Lord.  If this were easy, it would have been done a long time ago by much better people than us.  It is not easy; it is worthwhile because of Jesus.  And as in all mountain climbing expeditions, success or failure to the summit lays in the last 100 metres.  To turn back at that point because the last 100 metres is the hardest is to lose the 9,900 metres that we have already ascended.  To those who do not have, even what they have will be taken away.  The summit is in sight.  Now is the time to decide, do we try for it or do we turn back?

The Lord I know will not turn back… and I hope each of you will likewise not turn back.

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NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.  www.zondervan.com

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