Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Food For Thought:
Parables about sheep and shepherds are a common occurrence in Jesus’ teachings because he was teaching to an agrarian (farming) society. In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the shepherd who searches for stray sheep. This parable shows the depth of God’s love and how God seeks out even the last sheep and tries to bring it back into the fold. Then, when that one sheep is returned to the fold, God rejoices because what was once lost is now found. Throughout the course of my life, I have experienced the profound love of God. That is why I have never understood people who think of God as a punishing God. The God who I worship is a God of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness ― a God who wants what is best for God’s children. Because of this understanding, the parable of the lost sheep makes sense to me. God is the loving parent. If God had 5 children and one was lost (100 would be ludicrous, even the Duggers don’t have that many!), God would leave the four in safekeeping while he went to find the one that was lost. God would go to the ends of the earth to find that child. One of my favorite children’s books is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It has been special to me since I was a child and it is now one of my girls’ favorites. It is a beautiful story about the unconditional love of a parent. I cry every time that I read it. The part that my daughters have memorized is the rhyming part of the book. A young woman holds her newborn son and looks at him lovingly.
Softly she sings to him:
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
The story is about how you will go to the ends of the earth for your child. This is the same message that is being conveyed in the Parable of the Good Shepherd. God as a loving parent will go to the ends of the earth for God’s children. This is a wonderful promise that we are given throughout Scripture.
Loving God, I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty and yet overwhelmed by your love for me. I thank you that there is no human experience that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me. If I climb the highest mountain you are there, and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life, you are there. Teach me today to love you more. Help me to rest in that love that asks nothing more than the simple trusting heart of a child. Amen.