Leave the 99 Sheep for One?

Leave the 99 Sheep for One? October 19, 2011

I don’t know what it’s like to herd sheep, and I certainly don’t fully understand what it means to lose one.  But for the crowd around Jesus that day in Capernaum, they understood exactly what it meant to lose something so significant as a sheep.

I wonder if Jesus were to revise his parables for today’s crowd if he would say something like “If a person goes to Walmart and buys 10 bags of groceries, would he not leave the 9 in his car to go back to get the 1 bag that was left with the cashier.”

Part of me asks if the shepherd should just count his losses.  I mean 99 out of 100 is pretty good.  But I did some research on the cost of a sheep and it helped put it into perspective.  In today’s dollars, a sheep could run anywhere from $100 to $250 or more.  Multiply that by 100 sheep and that shepherd could be looking at $25,000 in his pasture.  Losing one sheep would feel like a few days wages, so you bet that shepherd is going to look for that sheep.

Jesus is trying to make the point that our lives are much more valuable than the life of a sheep.  In the same way that a shepherd would spend hours rescuing a sheep, God wants to save each one of us from sin.  Don’t you like how Jesus uses these kinds of examples to relay how much God loves us?

Have you read this parable in Matthew 18:10 lately?  What did you get out of it?  Share with us in the comments below.

Here’s the parable if you haven’t read it in a while:

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep

10 “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. [11]

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? 13 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. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

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  • “If a person goes to Walmart and buys 10 bags of groceries, would he not leave the 9 in his car to go back to get the 1 bag that was left with the cashier.”

    That makes SO much sense! I feel like I finally understand that parable now … I would totally leave 9 bags of groceries to go back for one, as long as I knew the 9 bags were safely in the car.

    I wouldn’t abandon the 9 bags of groceries if I thought there was a high risk that they’d get stolen or destroyed if I left their side. But I bet the shepherd wouldn’t abandon his 99 sheep if it put those 99 in undue harm’s way.

    • Tim

      I’m glad it makes sense! Jesus was making the point that every person is valuable to him and that we all have a place in the kingdom of God!

  • James

    POINT WELL TAKEN. HOWEVER, I WOULD SAY THE MILITARY’S POLICY OF ‘LEAVE NO SOLDIER BEHIND’ WOULD IN MY HUMBLE OPINION BE ONE OF THE BEST, IF NOT THE BEST PARALLELS OF THIS PARABLE. THEY GO TO ANY LENGTH FOR THEIR WOUNDED OR FALLEN BATTLE BUDDIES. I AM REMINDED OF A SAYING, “LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE; THE NOT THE VALUE OF A THING NOR ITS WORTH EXSCAPE THEE.” THE VALUE AND WORTH OF THOSE THE FATHER HAVE GIVEN JESUS ARE OF IMMENSE ETERAL VALUE.

    • Tim

      Hey James, great point! You’re absolutely right; I couldn’t have said it any better :)

  • Have you read the book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller? I realize this post is not directly related to Psalm 23, but this book is written from the point of view of a real-life shepherd and demonstrates the uniquely deep and intimate bond between a shepherd and each member of his flock. I think a more appropriate comparison than the grocery bags at Walmart may be, “If you had 10 children and realized you left one behind, would you go back for him?”

    • Tim

      Good input Melissa! I think that’s probably a better illustration than the groceries :) I was influenced by my recent experience of leaving a bag at the cashier, so that was the first thing that came to mind. And…having 10 children…that makes me tired just thinking about it! ;)