Man wandering down dusty path

The 1? Or The 99?


The Parable of The Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.“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. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:10-14

What in the heck was Jesus thinking when He taught that He was happier about the one sheep that ran off than He was about the ninety-nine that didn’t? I thought God blessed obedience. And we’re supposed to grow in self-control so we don’t wander off. And there’s supposed to be some sort of reward – or at lest favor – for not running off, right? Where did all of those teachings go?

Jesus’ Ways Are So Different Than Ours

Jesus told this parable to show that the Kingdom of God was (and is) accessible to all, even those who lived lives of unrepentant sin or strayed from God’s path.

He uses the example of a shepherd (God) who left the 99 others to go search for the one sheep that was lost and had gone astray.

When the shepherd finds the lost sheep he rejoices over it more than the 99 who did not go astray. This is how God will rejoice when a sinner returns to Him.

The Bible makes clear that Jesus is our shepherd and we are His sheep. When one of the sheep wanders away from the shepherd, it represents a person who wanders from Jesus by choosing to live by the world’s ways. Jesus doesn’t stop that person from wandering, because He loves us so much that He gave us free will to make our own choices in life.

He Honors Our Free Will

Although He doesn’t control the will of the sheep, to keep it from possibly going astray, He never gives up on the one who walks away from Him, no matter how many others He has by His side. He still loves and misses and wants the lost one to return. Having that one person return back home to Jesus is cause for great celebration. Remember the Parable of The Prodigal Son? His message is clear: God’s will is to bring all sinners home to Him. Every person matters to Him.

There are billions of people on planet earth. God created each of His children and knows all of us by name. He desires that every one of us follow Jesus so we can enjoy the reality of eternity with Him.

The take-home message of the Parable of the Lost Sheep is all about Jesus’ love for each of us.

  • He loves each of us more than we can imagine.
  • He never gives up on us. Never.
  • He always welcomes us in, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been.

What About The 99?

In the parable, the shepherd began with one hundred sheep and one walked away. “The 99” refers to the ninety-nine sheep who stayed with the shepherd – representing those who believe and are walking consistently in their faith in Jesus Christ. The shepherd knows that the 99 He left behind are safe until His return.

If you’re one of the 99, God’s desire is that your life be attentive to the sheep that aren’t in the flock. If you’re the 1, God wants you to know that He has been searching for you, and that your place among the other 99 has been held open for you, waiting for you to take your place.


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