Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “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.” (Luke 15:1-7)
Jesus’ target audience for this parable is the Pharisees, but imagine how it hit Matthew, and Mary Magdalene. I know how it hits me: I was a lost sheep who was found and carried home. You? In verse 4 Jesus puts us in the place of a shepherd and asks rhetorically if we wouldn’t “go after the lost sheep.” Unfortunately our answer is probably ‘No’. We’d say it was the sheep’s own fault and file an insurance claim or deduct it as a business loss. Not Jesus, who engaged in constant self-risk and flock-risk to bring countless lost sheep home. My late wife Lori was a finder of lost sheep. In her huge high school, she always sought out the disconnected kids. Her art room was a welcoming and creative home for dozens each term — and hundreds over the years — who were alienated from everything else. They’d show up at her door whether art happened to be on their official schedules or not. In her own way, she cried and prayed and rejoiced over each one. She taught me that sheep are only really lost when we stop looking for them.
Lord, thank you for finding me and carrying me home. I want to follow you as my Good Shepherd and look for lost sheep. Amen.