"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." ~ Matthew 28:19
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is recorded in two different Gospel accounts; Matthew (18:10-14) and Luke (15:1-7). The central story of the shepherd leaving ninety-nine and searching for only one stray is the familiar common denominator, but the contexts which surround this story in each Gospel are very different and help us to learn different aspects about caring for those who are lost.
Jesus actions in Luke echo His words from Matthew, saying to the Jewish authorities, “do not despise these little ones.” Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus is willing to reach out into the mess of sinners lives, untangle the knots and bring them home. The Good Shepherd models for the Jewish leadership and us how to bring wandering souls back to the truth. However:
“The Pharisees in general were jealous of his influence over the people, a jealousy which can also beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no matter how great the sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint; a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good done by others (The Navarre Bible Standard Edition: Saint Luke’s Gospel, 137).”When we are consumed by self-righteousness, we abandon our search for the lost and even become resentful of those who are humbly working as agents of God’s mercy. It is to illuminate this error of self-righteousness in the hearts of the proud that Christ asks the question, “what man among you having a hundred sheep would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it (Luke 15:5)?” Only those who are true disciples will answer, ‘I would’.
As Jesus says:
“A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd, whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:12-15).”Jesus knows us, equips us and expects us to be His shepherds, devoid of sanctimoniousness, helping “little ones” find their way back home to Him.