What Is Jesus’ Top Concern?

Are you like me and never noticed a significant part of Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep?

“So (Jesus) told them this parable, saying, ‘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? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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!”’” Luke 15:3-6

We all remember that the Shepherd left the 99, but don’t miss two fascinating details.

The Shepherd didn’t leave the 99 all safe in a barnyard or even in the care of a hired hand. Apparently, He left the 99 sheep—His own sheep, which He loved and valued—vulnerable to attack in the open pasture!

Did He have to? We are not told. Was He negligent? It almost seems He is daring us to think so.

Brother Neal Brower offers some interesting insight:

Would finding this one sheep be such a joyful occasion that He would want to celebrate with all his friends? Stop and think about the expense of having a banquet to celebrate the finding just one sheep. One might have to sell off or kill two or three sheep to celebrate finding one. That’s not good economics!

It is a very sentimental story, but it seems too fantastic.

To really understand the meaning of this parable, remember the audience to which Jesus was speaking—the self-righteous Pharisees and Scribes.

The Pharisees loved to restrict the “saved” to a select few, the elite of Judaism (Matthew 23:13). The Jews, as a group, felt superior to the Gentiles, but the Pharisees felt superior to other Jews (John 7:45-49). They wanted to keep the “saved” to a very small number, and to keep the undesirable element out.

Was Jesus offering us an extreme example to make an extreme point of the extreme value of just one “undesirable” who is lost?

Whatever your conclusions, just remember one fact.

Anyone complaining about the special attention to the lost sheep is at risk of the same bad attitude found in the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son.

“A Christian feeling slighted when priority is given to reaching the lost has chosen to live for too small a thing” (Neil Brower, Pray and Watch).

What is your top priority?

Grace and peace,

Pastor Steven