If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? 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. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. –Matthew 18: 12-14 (NIV)
Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday in our church and I preached on the lectionary text of John 10:11-18. I focused especially on verses 14-16: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
I don’t usually have three-point sermons but yesterday I did. First, the Good Shepherd knows everything about you- your joys, your pain, what you want, and what you need; He loves you so much that he’s willing to give it all- his very life- for your safety and salvation. Second, the Good Shepherd wants you to know him. To know the Good Shepherd, you must spend time with the Good Shepherd every day. Third, there are other sheep not in this pen (Which I interpreted as the church) that need to hear the Good News of the Good Shepherd. Knowing the Good Shepherd isn’t enough in my estimation; giving voice to the voice of the Good Shepherd in the world so that the world might know him is essential.
How fitting that in today’s assigned readings, there is another passage about sheep. It’s one of the more beautiful images in scripture for me. As long as there is one sheep that is not with the flock, the shepherd is not content. He doesn’t wait on the wayward sheep to come to him; he goes searching for the wayward sheep. There is not one sheep that doesn’t matter to the shepherd.
Why would you leave the ninety-nine obedient sheep to go after a wayward one? Isn’t that irresponsible? (My guess is that there was more than one shepherd watching the sheep; when one shepherd left in search of wayward sheep, the other ninety-nine were being tended to and cared for). But I’m thankful for a Shepherd who loves enough that, when one of the sheep strays or has never yet been in the pen, He is not willing to let us perish and goes looking.
May God grant you the grace, If you’ve been faithful and haven’t wandered off from the Shepherd, to love the wayward sheep as much as the Shepherd does. And if you’ve wandered away or have never been in the pen to begin with, may God grant you the grace to know just how much you matter and how much you are loved by the Shepherd.
If you're interested in reading through the Bible in a year, tomorrow's readings are 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, Psalm 2, and Matthew 20.