Parable of the Lost Sheep

Who are the 99 that Jesus leaves behind? Who is the 1 that He chases after? I worry that we think that once we have accepted Christ as our savior, that we become part of the 99, forever seeking the 1 lost person that needs to find her or his salvation. But is that true? Let’s dig in a bit. Stay with me, and then comment below to let me know what you think.

In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, OR ABANDON YOU.”

In John 10:14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me.”

In Luke 15:4-7 we read the parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus is speaking to a group of Pharisees who think they are righteous because they maintain the law. They are “religious” but they do not understand that “relationship” with Jesus means more than rule-keeping. Jesus’ conversation with them goes beyond Luke 15, but let’s start there:

Jesus says to them, “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.”

Now go to Luke 18:9 for another passage about the righteous and the sinner:

“Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

The thing is, if you are a sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock, you ARE the 1 and not the 99. You aren’t perfect, yet your heart and life are centered on Christ. You do not look on others with disgust, believing you are more worthy of Christ’s love and community than they are. It’s a lifelong journey, and while you are on that journey with your Shepherd, God will never leave you nor forsake you. He knows you, and you know Him. It’s a relationship that started the moment He chose you (Jer 1:5; John 15:16), and will continue throughout this brief human life and for eternity.

So the next time you sing the song Reckless Love (one of my favorites!) remember that you are the 1 that Jesus continues to seek. Nothing can separate you from His love. He will find you, and your salvation is simply the starting point of a beautiful relationship.


  1. Hi Stacey!

    I love both of these parables! We are the 1! I can’t count how many times I have been searched for when I stray. Knowing that I am not perfect yet the Lord keeps calling me back is humbling. It also helps me to look with love and have empathy with those who are struggling. God brings so much good out of so many heartaches, if we let Him.

    I am beginning to discover that as I (we) get older the journey is beginning to become very real – I am seeing how weak my faith is and build up my “mature” relationship with Him.

    I did just have this thought, the 99 at the moment are with the Lord, and the one is lost. But what he doesn’t mention is whether any of the 99 had ever been lost or will be. We are the 1 and the 99? At some point we will be lost and at other times we will be the 99, hopefully encouraging and loving each other and “leaping in the fields” when our sheep buddy returns!

    I am so glad things are going well and finalized for you!

    1. Thanks for commenting Anje! Miss you my friend. The 99 are thought by some scholars to be the Pharisees, and based on Luke’s account, I would agree.

      Interestingly in church settings I hear of the 99 being those who are “found” in Christ, and the 1 being the lost Christian, not yet saved. However, in the context, I would disagree. Having said that, I think you and I end up in the same place. As the “1” we are sometimes tucked safely in Jesus’ arms, and sometimes wandering far from Him. Yet we find comfort in the parable because first, we see ourselves as the 1, and second, we know He will always search for us even when we feel far from Him.

      The Shepherd theme is so powerful, on many levels. I love that we can identify as strongly with it now as those who heard Jesus’ words directly.

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