“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish. ~Matthew 18:12-14How important are the lost sheep? (vs 12-14)
The pasture land in Judea is narrow and located on hills. This means there were at least two sides which sheep could wander off, to their own peril. In Jesus’ day, it was common for the sheep to be owned communally, which explains how one shepherd would go off to look for the lost sheep while the remaining shepherds would watch the other 99. The lost sheep, once found, would have been celebrated by that community.
But perhaps the problem is that we don't connect with sheep. Even though we have been compared with sheep by Jesus and other writers in the New Testament, I don’t know that I’ve ever been sentimental over a sheep. We see cows around here. We see horses. If we went to the fair we could see pigs and chickens and bunnies. But I don’t get overly sentimental while eating a hamburger either.
But we all have children. We have likely had that moment when our kids were young and one of them came up missing.
A few weeks ago when I was down in Nashville with my teens, we were among several groups with many teens. On one of the nights I was hanging around with some of the teens. It had been the night where many had made commitments. So now the groups were having fun and talking and laughing.
And that is when it happened. I saw two leaders come through and ask if we had seen a couple of girls. The mood for every leader changed. You could see it in their eyes. Two teens were gone and it did not matter that we had the rest. The missing teens must be found.
And eventually they were found. When they were the celebration returned to one of joy and contentment. But not before they had been found.
We need to care about people like this. We need to be worried when we do not know where they are with God. We need to be fervently searching for them.
We need to care.