Seeking the Lost Sheep
“Leaving the Ninety-Nine”
I. Scripture Reading (Notice the Joy & Rejoicing in the Underlined Verses)
Luke 15:1-7 (NASB) – “1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’
3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4 ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’ ”
II. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Alternate Title? “What We Can Learn from Sheep Behavior”
- A. Is 1st of 3 Parables Showing the Value of a Lost Soul (Person)
- 1. The Lost Sheep (followed by…)
- 2. The Lost Coin
Luke 15:8-10 (NASB) – “8 Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- 3. The Lost Son
Luke 15:20-24 (NASB) – “20 So [the Lost Son] got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
- B. Rejoicing Over The Lost Soul Who is Found
This is the Popular and Well-Understood theme of these three (3) parables: We Need to Share The Same Rejoicing as our Shepard & The Hosts in Heaven Each Time a Lost Soul (Person) is Found, Converts and Joins our “Christian” Flock (AKA “the 99”). We should have the same heart as our Shepherd in “Seeking the Lost”; we should have the rejoicing as did our Savior and as do the heavenly hosts each time a lost soul is rescued! We should have the same heart for each person on this planet (whether a lost family member, a lost community member, or a lost person in Pakistan, the Philippines, Africa, or wherever he or she may reside. And yes, our primary focus should be on sinners! Let this mind be in us as it was in our Shepard when the Pharisees and teachers (the “church leadership” of His time) asked Him, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Our answer will be, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-31 TNIV) After all, who among us is without sin?
If that question alone doesn’t humble us, then we should definitely be humbled by how our Savior sacrificed His heavenly position and humbled Himself to save each of us here today.
Seeking & Saving the Lost, and Rejoicing upon their Return to Jesus is the part of the parable that most of us understand, but what about the part when ..
- C. Our Shepard “leave(s) the ninety-nine (us) in the open pasture”
Jesus begins the “Lost Sheep” parable with the question, “what man among you … does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture?” This question was addressed to the church leadership at when they were criticizing Him for witnessing to Sinners and Socializing with them.
In Jesus’s day, however, it is most likely that none of (the Pharisees and the scribes) would leave 99 sheep unprotected in “the open pasture” to save one who might never be found or might already be dead. This would not be smart, but would be bad business and potential economic suicide. In truth, a shepherd could easily return to find half of his flock or more missing or dead.
Realistically, even today, no sane person would do this to save one sheep! Yet the God man Jesus (our Yeshua) would do this! Notice His joy in finding that which is lost! As He places the Lost Sheep on his shoulders and carries it back to the flock of “ninety-nine” rejoicing!
So what does it mean that The Shepherd leaves us – the 99 sheep – to search for the lost one? What implications does this have on His flock as they seeks to bring the lost to Him too … here in our families, in our community, and in the worldwide community abroad such as we are being asked to do now by our brothers in Pakistan, in the Philippines, or in Africa? What implications does this have on each of us in our individual lives, our own well-being as we are left alone “in the open pasture” and as we seek to go forward with our “Christian” living?
The “99 sheep” represent the true Church, those who have repented and are saved by his grace. They are those “who need no repentance” – they already have repented, claimed their Shepard as their Savior, and are Kingdom-bound. Will He allow us to be in harm’s way in order to go after the “lost sheep?” This is a moment to remember the picture we share a couple weeks ago where the disciples are in the boat “going to the other side” with Yeshua (“as He was”, sleeping and seemingly unaware of the storm and the water filling the boat). From the Old Testament, He says to us today as He said to the Israelites who are about to enter the promised land, “Be strong and courageous. Don’t tremble! Don’t be afraid of them! [Because] Yahweh (Father) your Elohim (God plural) is the one who is going with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you.”
During this time while we are waiting for His return, Jesus (our Yeshua) never leaves us nor forsakes us. In Matthew 28:20 he tells us, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In John 16:7-10, we are promised that “7 … it is to [our] advantage that [He] go[es] away; for if [He did] not go away, the Helper [would] not come to [us]; but if [He] departs, [He] will send Him to [us]. 8 And when He [the Helper] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in [Him]; 10 of righteousness, because [He] go[es] to [His] (and our) Father and [we] see [Him] no more…”
So His Spirit [the Helper] lives within us after all. So Jesus doesn’t really “leave” us alone in open pasture; He is always with us. HOWEVER, as the disciples in the boat with Him, we WILL be exposed to possible physical harm as He pursues the “lost sheep.”
Spiritually nothing external can separate us from Yeshua [Jesus] and His love, but our physical bodily protection is another matter. Jesus knows that even if we face persecution and death, we will be resurrected. We are his eternally. Physical abuse and death are only momentary. If His “lost sheep” die without him, however, they face eternal separation. He will be making His appeal to them through us and our testimony. This testimony will expose us and lead to many of us being “sheep to be slaughtered”; who suffer all the things listed in this passage from Romans. This is just the shepherd seeking his lost sheep and leaving the 99 in open pasture because he knows NOTHING can separate His 99 sheep from him. In fact he invites us to take up our cross and follow him. That cross may include prison or persecution even unto death. He must understand, too, as He said, “18 If the world hates you, realize that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you had anything in common with the world, the world would love you as one of its own. But you don’t have anything in common with the world. I chose you from the world, and that’s why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant isn’t greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they did what I said, they will also do what you say.21 Indeed, they will do all this to you because you are committed to me, since they don’t know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21 (NOG)
III. What we Can Learn from The Behavior of Sheep 1
- A. Basic Facts about Sheep
1. Sheep are Not Stupid
Contrary to what you may have heard or even expressed yourself, sheep are not stupid. They rank just below the pig and on par with cattle in intelligence among farm animals. Sheep react to the situations they are placed in according to instincts that have been developed over centuries. While it can be argued that domestication has decreased their instinctive behavior, they still show them in many ways, sometimes daily.
2. Sheep will Run from What Frightens Them
In the overall scheme of things sheep are grazers, which means that before domestication, they obtained their entire feed supply by grazing grass and shrubs. At that time their only means of survival was to run from danger and to band together in large numbers for protection.
3. Sheep are Gregarious (Fond of Company; Sociable)
By gregarious, we mean that sheep band together and pretty much stay together when grazing, etc. This isn't because they particularly like each other, although they are social animals, but rather for protection.
4. Sheep will Follow Each Other
You've heard the expression, "Get one to go and they will all go." This means that if one sheep will move then the entire flock will follow. This is because of their gregarious instinct, the desire to stay together for protection.
5. Sheep will Move toward Another Sheep or Friend
Again, because of their instinct to stay close together sheep will move toward another sheep or a perceived friend. Often times a friend can be a person, particularly if the person feeds the sheep. By using this instinct, shepherds have controlled sheep movement for centuries. In this case the sheep will follow other sheep that are actually moving to see a friend (the shepherd who feeds them). By exploiting this instinct, the shepherd can move sheep from the barn to the pasture. The secret is to allow the sheep that come to you to actually eat grain or they will soon figure out that they are being fooled and will not respond.
6. Sheep Maintain a Flight Distance between Themselves and Others
Just like humans, sheep like to maintain a distance, or safe zone, between themselves and others. (We call it our “personal space.”) Flight distance is defined as the space between themselves and others the sheep will tolerate before moving.
The flight distance varies a great deal depending on the situation the sheep or human is in. In a normal situation, when the sheep is relaxed, the distance is small. However, if danger in the form of a dog or a strange person appears then it is greatly increased and the sheep moves away.
By working with sheep daily, you will decrease the flight distance of the sheep as it relates to you. This is because you are perceived as a friend and the sheep accepts you.
- B. Living as His Sheep i.e. “Lessons Learned” from Sheep Behavior
In Basic Terms …
The moment you become a Christian, many wonderful and amazing things occur: you are united forever with Christ; you are declared righteous before God; you are placed into God’s family as an adopted son, gaining all the rights and privileges that come with that; and God begins a work in you of setting you apart from sin to Himself. Your relation to God is completely changed, and that for the better!
What about our relation to other Christians (“The Church”; the other 98)? Do we need them? Do they need you? If you are a Christian, you do need other believers (the other 98). God expects believers to grow in their faith and to do so by growing together in God’s Word. The growth and protection Christians need to experience occurs as believers assemble together as a local church—it won’t happen by individuals or families attempting to do it on their own. Christians and Christian families need each other to grow in their Christian faith.
Believers Assemble To Help And Be Helped By Each Other. What kind of needs do we have? Our needs are probably like many other believers. One of the neat things about Christ’s body (the assembly of believers, the church, the other 98) is that it is designed to help and be helped by its members. Remember, Christians are described as a body and a family. If your body and family are functioning correctly, pain is felt and taken care of!
This same kind of care is also what God intends how the 98 “get along.” “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it”
(1 Corinthians 12:24-26). If you read how Christians cared for one another in the New Testament, you’d find how they cared for each other’s physical needs (Acts 9:36, 39), financial needs (Acts 4:32-35), emotional needs (Romans 12:15), and spiritual needs (Ephesians 4:12).2
In Specifically Terms, in the Bible we have been given advise as having the same behavior as sheep …
1 As Sheep, We are Not to Be Stupid
Matthew 10:16-20 (NIV) – “16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
2 As Sheep, We Should Run from What Frightens Us (Spiritually)
John 10:1-11 (NIV) – “1 Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a]They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
3 As Sheep, We Should be Gregarious (Sociable)
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV) – “23 Let us (individually and as a group) hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
4 As Sheep, We Should Follow Each Other (Stick Together/Be United as We Work Together)
Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV) – “19 Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Luke 11:9-13 (NIV) – “9 So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which
of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Note importance of asking for “The Helper”, compared to all the other things we could be asking for.)
Luke 5:14-16 (NIV) – “14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
5 Sheep Move toward Another Sheep or Friend (Jesus meets His Disciples on the Shore for the 3rd time after His resurrection)
Luke 21:15-19 (NIV) – “15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ 17 The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, Follow me!”
To Follow Yeshua [Jesus] Our Shepard & Friend, We Must Show our Love for Him and Our Following Him (Our Discipleship) by Moving Toward & Feeding His Sheep … Even Unto the End of our Lives, or the End of the World, Whichever Comes First
John 13:34-35 (NIV) – “34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
6 Sheep Maintain a Flight Distance between Themselves & Others
Throughout the world there are churches, televangelists and teachers with all sorts of false teachings, fake healing ministries and the false prosperity gospel. These people are described and condemned in 2 Pet. 2. Rom. 16:17 warns us to "… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them" and in Gal. 1:8 God condemns those who preach false gospels. Like the Bereans, in Acts 17:11, we must check the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true and we must warn others about false teachings otherwise they may be badly misled and leave the path of holiness. So, it is most important that we make righteous judgments according to the Word of God so that we can recognize and separate ourselves from false teachings. 1 Tim. 1:3-5 tells us“… command certain men not to teach false doctrines … the goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”. 3
- C. Living as His Flock (Herd) of Sheep i.e. Imitating our Shepard’s Example Each Day of Our Lives
1 Timothy 2:5-10 NASB – “1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then … [be] like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
IV. My Prayer
Dear Brothers & Sister, today I pray that God our Father and Yeshua Our Shepard, through The Helper, will dwell in us each day of our lives, whether we are together or separated. I pray that we will remain united in Him until the day we have made it to the promised land, on the other side of our life’s trials and temptations. I pray that on this life’s journey, together we will have the mind of our Shepard … to seek, to love, and to save “the lost” in our families, in our community, and abroad as we are led by Him.
V. Benediction (Psalm 23-KJV)
“1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
1 “An Introduction to Sheep Behavior”, by Richard Cobb, January 22, 1999; Sheep & Goats, Illinois Livestock Trail;
2 “For the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!”, Orwell Bible Church. This entry was posted
3 “What is judging, exactly?”, ~Belle Olivier; Beauty for Ashes Ministry, October 17, 2013