Reading Time: 5 Minutes
The parable of the Lost Sheep appears in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 15.4-7) and in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 18.12-14). When we take the settings of these parables together, they provide a very balanced way for people to respond to the work of God through Jesus Christ.
The Setting of the Parable
It appears that Jesus used the same parable to address two different situations that his followers faced. The way Jesus approached their issues, gives us a very clear picture of God’s character and how we should respond to his purposes for us.
— The Setting in Luke – In Luke, Jesus addressed the objections and disapproval of the religious authorities.
Their complaint was, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15.2).
— The Setting in Matthew – The context in Matthew was Jesus’ message to the church about the “little ones” or marginal members in the congregation.
He reminded his followers that God cares for people who are the “edges” and “margins” of the church. He said, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18.10).
So-called “marginal” people are not marginal to God. They are quite valuable.
— Use of the Parable – The parable of the Lost Sheep was basically the same in Matthew and Luke.
(1) It began with a question that required an answer from people who are confronted by the message. The way they answer will help them evaluate their behavior and see if it is alignment with God.
“What do you think?” (Matthew 18.12) and “Which one of you” (Luke 15.4) is how Jesus began the parable.
(2) An extended analogy of a lost sheep and a caring shepherd follows the question. The shepherd searches for and recovers the sheep. When he returns home, he rejoices over what has transpired (Matthew 18.12-13 and Luke 15.4-6).
— The Application of the Parable – As Jesus applied the parable to two different situations, he gave the church a picture of what God is like and the attitudes and actions he wants us to have.
(1) Jesus’ application in Matthew was applied to marginal members of the congregation. He said, “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18.14).
If this is the way God cares for the so-called “insignificant” and “marginal” members of the church, followers of Jesus should mirror his conduct.
I once heard a pastor say, “We will let you ski behind the boat of our ministry for a while. But after that, you need to join in and help pull your part of the load.”
Without a doubt, caring for all the members of a church can not be the sole responsibility of a few people, if the ministry is to be effective.
People who are confronted by Jesus’ use of the parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew should evaluate their lives and see if they are living in accordance to the character of our Lord.
(2) The situation in Luke was different. The point that Jesus made in that setting was as follows. He said, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15.7).
Don’t get “hung up” on the details of the parable, such as “what about the 99?” The central point is that celebration is in order because a “lost sheep” has been rescued.
One of the reasons why I am happy to be a part of Maywood Baptist Church is that there are people who imitate the behavior of the shepherd in this parable.
— Scott and Dawn Stoner have an outreach to the homeless that is as genuine and effective as anything I know.
— There are people, who support Scott and Dawn with financial help and other means of assistance.
— Men and women in the program of Alcoholic’s Anonymous freely and willingly reach out to the “still suffering addict.”
— Friends bring their distant-from-God friends to church and other social gatherings, building bridges to a relationship with Jesus.
These illustrations are but a few of the ways that Maywood people reflect the spirit of this parable. I praise God that we work at reaching the “lost sheep” that God loves so much.
The Most Important Part of the Parable
The most important part of the parable of the Lost Sheep is what it says about God.
God is not passive, waiting for people to approach him after they get their lives in order. He seeks people, no matter how lost they appear to be.
If God is a seeking and caring God, then his character should transform how we think about him and ourselves.
— We will praise God, who cared enough about us to seek us in our lost state.
— We will accept the truth that if we are valuable enough for God to seek and save us, then we are quite valuable indeed.
— We will see other people, not as “lost causes,” but as “lost sheep” whom God desires to rescue through us.
— We will rejoice with God over the salvation of the lost, and grieve that we don’t care for the lost as deeply as we should.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, “Stories With Intent.” His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.