3/17/2020 – The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Passage: Matthew 18:10-14, Luke 15:1-7
Written By: Mackenzie Lancey – Undergrad
Summer, 2016 – I felt discouraged. After spending a year in French-speaking Switzerland, where being a believer was generally viewed as a sign of childish ignorance, I felt out of touch with my faith and with other believers. What had been a yearning for a faith community a few months earlier had turned slowly to wondering why following Jesus’ teachings seemed so restrictive. Was the “I do whatever I want, whenever I want because it makes me happy” mentality actually wrong? I found myself questioning some of my most core beliefs – I found myself feeling as if following Jesus was a burden. It was a low point. Objectively, most believers would have agreed, my situation was that of “being lost.”
With Fall 2016 came my Freshman year of college and I was dangerously close to viewing Christianity as a check list of things I had to do. I was passionate about the checklist. I wanted to follow Jesus (aka, following the checklist), but I did not understand the depth of love that God has for us. I did not understand what it meant to follow Jesus, to not just follow His rules, but to be obedient to His good teachings because I love Him, value His guidance in my life and acknowledge His sacrifice on the cross.
God is good. God does not abandon his children because of a flawed understanding of Him and their faith. God did not see me trying to form a cookie cutter faith that I could fit onto a to-do list and decide this was it – the end of my walk with Christ. I was both lost and blind to my lost-ness (a dangerous combination), but God didn’t move on to a battle with a clearer victory.
God doesn’t just choose the easy battles. He doesn’t stand with his flock, watching idly as one of His sheep wanders away. In Matthew, Jesus tells a story about a man, a shepherd. The shepherd represents God the Father, and the sheep represents those He cares for, us.
Matthew 18:12-13 says: “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.”
Ninety-nine sheep in the story are chewing their grass, doing what the shepherd is asking them to do. But there’s this one sheep who has left the flock. We don’t know if the sheep looked up from the plentiful grasses that the shepherd had faithfully guided it towards and something caught its eye, and decided to go investigate. The sheep might have left willingly if that were the case. Or perhaps, the sheep had wandered off by accident, a wrong turn here, mis-judgement there, until it looks up one day and – no flock.
Reading this, you might have in mind which category of sheep you fall into. Or maybe you’ve been both at one time or another. But regardless of the path taken – both sheep will eventually look up and realize – they’ve lost the flock. They’re alone. Afraid. But for both sheep, they see the same thing when they finally look up. The shepherd is there. The flock might be out of view, safely where the shepherd had guided them – but the shepherd is here. He never let the sheep go so far that it could not return. The lost sheep couldn’t go anywhere that the shepherd hadn’t been before, seeking other wandering sheep.
Our Heavenly Father guides us with the Holy Spirit. When we can feel His gifts working in our lives and our tangible blessings are too numerous to count, sometimes it feels easy to stay with the flock. But when the going gets tough, when we lose trust in God – in our Good Shepherd – sometimes we start wondering if there’s a better way to live that we can find ourselves, without His help. We doubt His guidance. That’s when we get lost. But Jesus made a promise, in Matthew 18:10-14 and Luke 15:1-7, that when we start wandering off, our Father will be seeking us. When we look up, we know He will be there.
He will have been seeking us before we even knew we were wandering, found us before we even knew we were lost.