We asked yesterday what kind of item might be so important that if you lost it, then found it again, that you’d throw a party to celebrate its return.  I can’t imagine there is much, beyond other people, we’d do that for!

Well, Jesus told a story about this in the book of Luke.

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And 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 that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Shepherds aren’t so common in our day, we’re used to just seeing sheep in pens.  But this was not always the case.

A first century Jewsih shepherd would have no fences, but instead those shepherds kept the flock together by their presence, their guidance, their protection.  A shepherd’s crook is ultimate symbol of that – protection, rescue, guidance.

A shepherd in that day would have been well off with 100 sheep. The point is not that he faces financial ruin if he doesn’t find the sheep.  He has lots.

The point is not that this one sheep is his very best, highest quality and hence most valuable sheep.  It could be any one of them, Jesus seems to be saying.

What seems to make this sheep so valuable is that it’s lost.  It’s one of 100 normally, but today it’s alone, vulnerable, and needing help.

For this one, random lost sheep, the shepherd goes to great lengths.  He leaves the other 99 sheep in the herd, and goes searching for the lost sheep.  He puts them at risk, leaving them in the open country, but not near as much risk as the single lost sheep vulnerable and alone.

When he does find it, he goes over the top in celebrating the sheep’s return, even throwing a party.  That seems a bit over the top. I can appreciate a sense of relief, a celebratory skip and a jump, a cheer – but a party simply because he didn’t lose 1% of his wealth after all?

Question: Why do you think Jesus goes over the top, here?  What context might help us figure this out?

Meeting with a Group?  Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide

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