The Other 99
Matthew 18:12-14 12
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (See also Luke 15:4-7)
I do not know about you but I have often wondered about why God calls Jesus the Shepherd and why He compares us to sheep (not lambs – the cute cuddly babies, but sheep). I did a bit of a comparison chart – interestingly, we have a lot of the same attributes.
In the above scripture of Matthew it tells us that the shepherd left the 99 sheep to go look for the 1 lost sheep. It seems that that one sheep was of utmost importance to him. Of course the parallel we are supposed to glean from the story is that our Heavenly Shepherd will go off to find that 1 lost person as well. That 1 lost person is too much to lose even if there are 99 left. The verse says “he is happier about that one sheep than about the other 99 that did not wander off.”
Those 99 that got left – are the sheep that are content to go along with the status quo. They are not wanderers, they do not have to have a fence, they will stay the course and follow the crowd. They are content to just be, they are comfortable. They did not notice that there was a lost member – they did not go looking, but the shepherd did. Churches can be like this, they are content to keep the status quo, they usually do not go looking for the lost sheep. The 99 are the “stable” church attenders, the tithers, they keep the church going, they do not rock the boat – so why go looking for trouble.
The 1 lost sheep could be the curious one; the hurt one; the smelly unkempt one; the problem in the crowd; the one pushing the limits and breaking the rules, and often labelled as the trouble maker.
To most of us this 1 sheep is the one we roll our eyes at, the one we judge, the one we hope will just stay away because they take a lot of effort and for what? I mean they do not appreciate all the effort you give them, they just keep wandering away.
But I want us to focus on the shepherd’s reaction.
The shepherd was not content to lose even 1 sheep. You see even if there was only 1 person on earth, 1 lost, wandering, smelly, needy and unkempt person – Jesus still would have gone to the cross for them. Jesus thinks every single person is worth saving and since we are created in His image – the image of God, not the image of sheep – should that not be our motto as well?
I know for myself, that I often struggle with reaching out to those whom I deem unlovable, the trouble makers or the outcasts, so I am talking to myself here.
Who today is on my/your wandering sheep list? Are you/I willing to break away from our flock, our comfort zone and go looking for them as Jesus did, or are we content to stay in our field and stick with our flock?