Why did Jesus tell this parable?

It would seem that he told it twice: once to stress the truth that God loves and cares for people who are considered insignificant and unimportant, represented in Matthew by 'little children'; and, on another occasion, recorded in Luke, to teach that God loves and cares for people who are scorned and despised by those who think themselves righteous: the sinners who know they are sinners.

Representing God as a Shepherd, Jesus depicts him leaving ninety-nine sheep 'in the open country' and going off seeking for one lost sheep until he finds it. It could have been any one of his hundred sheep: he would have done the same for any of them.

God's love is like that: each one of us is important; each the object of his special love. Personally he comes seeking us, and when he finds us, as the parable teaches, he is filled with joy and carries us home.

No harsh words. No harsh treatment for our stupidity. Just strong, gentle love that is so pleased to have found us that it joyfully bears our weight.

Jesus, the Son of God, identified himself as the 'Good Shepherd' who gives his life for his sheep. He came to this world to seek and to save the lost. To rescue us from our sin and its punishment he carried both our sin and its punishment, going right into the agony of death and separation from God the Father so that he could carry us out of it.

On the cross he carried the weight of our sin in his own body; rising from death to life he carries those who believe in him right into the very presence of God.

Whoever you are - whether you are someone who has known this Good Shepherd and wandered away, or whether you are someone who has never before heard his voice - when you hear him call your name, answer him; don't shrink back in fear. He comes with love, he calls with a good purpose: to save you from your lostness, to save you from certain destruction, and to bring you home with great joy.

Scriptures: Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:1-7; John 10:11,13; Luke 19:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24-25

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004, 2010