The value of each one

(This is the second in a series of posts on the Parable of Luke 15. You can read the first post here.)

The first of the three stories Jesus shares is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. It is found in Luke 15:4-7.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he 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.

The immense value of each sheep to the shepherd

What do you imagine a flock of 100 sheep looks like? What about a flock of 99 sheep? Seems to me they would look pretty much the same. Unless you knew each one of the 100 sheep in your flock. Unless you cared immensely for each one of the 100 sheep in your flock. In that case, if one was lost, you would miss it immediately, and you wouldn’t rest until it had been found.

This is a picture of the love Jesus has for us. Just as the shepherd knows and cares for each one of his sheep, Jesus wants us to understand how much He loves us, how much He cares for us, and how much He values each one of us. And when one of us strays, He knows it, He feels it, and He immediately begins His work of finding and restoring His lost little one.

For many of us, there is something strange in the thought of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to search for the one that is lost. We see the greater value in the ninety-nine, and wonder why Jesus would risk them to go looking for the one. But in this leaving to search for the one Jesus reveals a vitally important truth: when the shepherd leaves the flock to search for the one that is lost, it shows the immense value of each sheep to the Shepherd.

By leaving to search for the one, the shepherd demonstrates to the rest of the flock that if one of them ever strays and gets lost, the shepherd would come looking for them as well. Kenneth Bailey says, ”It is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If the one is sacrificed in the name of the larger good of the group, then each individual in the group is insecure, knowing that he or she too is of little value. If lost, he or she will be left to die. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.”

In John 10 Jesus again uses the illustration of sheep and shepherd to describe His love and care for us. Jesus says in John 10: 14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” I am struck by the phrase, “I know my sheep.” He knows us. He knows us personally. He knows us individually. Each one of us is unimaginably important to Him, and He won’t rest until each one of us that is lost has been found.

When the shepherd finds the sheep that was lost, the process of restoration begins. We will look at this in the next post.

(Many of the thoughts in these next posts on Luke 15 come from one book: The Cross & the Prodigal by Kenneth E. Bailey. I recommend it highly.)

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