The Parable of the Lost Sheep
by Susan Fertig-Dykes
This parable also appears in Matthew, though there is slightly more detail in Luke. It has much in common with the parable about the woman and the lost coin and with the parable of the prodigal son, which follow immediately after.
At the beginning, a crowd is gathering, all anxious to listen to Jesus. But, typically, the Pharisees and scribes complain about the company Jesus keeps, suggesting that because he consorts with tax collectors, who were corrupt and greedy, despised by the other Jews, and sinners in general, he is no better than they. He uses this parable to say, both to his detractors and to the sinners, that he did not come to save the righteous, but rather to save the sinners. He does this by telling the story of one lost sheep being worth all the others.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, there is much rejoicing when the profligate son returns home from his debauchery, now a repentant prodigal, and the forgiving father asks that everyone join with him in his joy. In the story of the woman and the lost coin, she also gathers her neighbors to share in her joy when she finds the coin, one among many, that she had lost. When the lost sheep is found, the neighbors and friends are gathered to share in the joy. The ninety-nine were not lost; they are not of concern. But the one was found.
If one of us is lost, how comforting to think that the Father would leave everyone else to pursue us! That none would be so important as the one of us who was lost!
But the parable is really to say that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would go all out for one who was foundering—that He is ever forgiving, to the point that He was willing to give His Son to death on the cross to buy us. And having done that, He will not let us go—He will pursue us.
After all, there is no one who is righteous. We are all sinners. So there is none who would not be worth saving. Jesus is saying to the Pharisees and the scribes, “You don’t realize it, but you are not worthy, but I will come after you, too.”
Gracious Lord, full of compassion, full of love, full of forgiveness, as you are overflowing with kindness, overflow into our lives with your grace—help us to see ourselves as Pharisees, and to correct our attitudes. Amen.
Susan Beatrice Fertig-Dykes has attended The Falls Church Anglican since 2004. She was on staff from 2009-2017 leading communications. Currently, she is a C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow, participating in four Bible studies, chairing the Silk Road Connection supporting local pastors and church workers in Central Asia, and chairing the committee which distributes altar flowers to bereaved families for Congregational Care.