Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV) 12“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? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
We often disconnect this parable from children. Jesus was speaking on the subject of how precious children are to God. He was using an illustration that the hearers all understood. Sheep need a shepherd. They cannot survive on their own. They need someone to guide them to pasture, water, and to protect them from predators.
In this parable, one sheep wonders off. This is quite common. Though the sheep tend to congregate for protection, there are those independent ones that tend to wander. The danger is that they will fall into an inescapable crag or be eaten by predators. The shepherd will leave the flock, which endangers the flock, to find that one lost sheep. When he finds it, it is often weak from insufficient pasture and water. He usually has to carry it back. Still, he is joyful that the sheep has been recovered. Sometimes we look at children, both physical and spiritual, that are independent thinkers and wonder if they are worth the effort. Jesus is saying that they are indeed. The one who is able to help them return to the fold is happier about that restoration than about the others who did not stray.
Sometimes that sheep will repeatedly wander away. Then the shepherd of Jesus’ day had one option, to break the sheep’s leg. That would mean he would have to carry it for the next six weeks, hand feeding it. When the sheep recovers, it will never leave the shepherd’s side. Severe discipline costs the shepherd a great deal of effort, but it is worth saving the sheep.
Consider: The Father is not willing that any be lost, even the most rebellious.
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