If God was a shepherd and all the people He created are His sheep, then one could say He has an enormous amount of sheep to look after! One could also say, if He has so many sheep, then one lost sheep is just a casualty and no big deal. But is it true to say that one person does not matter in the grand scheme of things? If we ever watched the movie “A Wonderful Life” we know the answer to that question. Suffice to say that Jesus sees it exactly the same way. Yes, every single person matters, rich or poor, young or old, you and I matter. And so the story goes: In the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel a man owning a hundred sheep performed a head count and found out that one of his sheep wasn’t there. So he left the 99 in search for the one who got lost. How this man reacts when he realizes that one sheep went missing always left me wondering: What about the other 99? If one sheep matters, certainly 99 do too! What if he finds this one sheep and when he returns the 99 are scattered, and now he really has to call a search party?
Well, Jesus tells a story here; and this story has a target audience. Looking at the beginning of chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel we see the following scenario unfold: “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” Translated into Jesus’ story apparently there are all kinds of different sheep out there: Pharisee sheep, Religious Teacher sheep, just to name a few. Those sheep were usually always debating their different viewpoints, with each party insisting they had to be right. In Jesus’ day and age the formerly divided parties now composed a united front to criticize Jesus. And what was their criticism? They criticized the fact that Jesus was hanging out with men and women of bad reputation; with tax-collector-sheep; with who-knows-what-kind-of-sheep. However, these despised sheep were the ones that went out of their way to listen to Jesus. When Jesus fed 5000 people miraculously, He did so because people were following Him all the way into the wilderness to hear him teach, and there was no food available in the desert. Men and women of bad reputation were hungry for the Word that came out of His mouth. Jesus has been looking for these kinds of sheep all along and leaves behind the disagreeable ones to find them. He leaves them behind in the wilderness in search for the ones who are hungry for God.
This is not to say that He does not love disagreeable sheep. Nothing could be further from the truth. But maybe one day the disagreeable sheep stop their hot debates and realize in shock that they are without Jesus in the wilderness, utterly alone, and understand the profound truth that we are all lost sheep and in need of a Savior.