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Discovery Magazine 12/1/2000

The Value of a "Lost Sheep"

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

While He was on Earth, Christ used a variety of methods to teach those He met. Sometimes He presented masterful sermons (like His beautiful "Sermon on the Mount," Matthew 6-8). Sometimes He did miracles (like raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, Luke 11:43-44). And sometimes He told parables to get His point across. One such parable is found in Luke 15:4-7.

Jesus told His audience about a man who had 100 sheep. One of those sheep wandered off and became lost. What did the man do? Did he simply say to himself, "Oh well, I still have 99 sheep left? That one little sheep isn’t that important." NO! The man became very concerned about the one sheep that was lost. He was so concerned that he temporarily left the 99 sheep in order to go search for the one that had gone astray. When he found it, he called together his friends and neighbors and asked them to join him in his happiness. Why was he so excited? He explained to his friends: "I have found my sheep which was lost!"

What was Jesus’ point in telling this parable? Was He trying to convince people of the value of a sheep? No, of course not. Jesus explained this parable when He said: "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine upright persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

Jesus wanted the people around Him to learn two important lessons. First, in John 10:11, He called Himself "the good shepherd" and said that He would be willing to give His life for His sheep. Those "sheep" are Christians who listen to His voice and obey His will.

Second, Jesus wanted people to understand just how valuable a single soul really is, and to realize how horrible it is to be lost. In Matthew 16:16, Christ asked: "What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Two chapters later, in Matthew 18:11, He said that He had "come to save that which was lost." There is nothing we possess that is more valuable than our soul.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be like sheep that wander off, become lost, and die. Instead, He wants us to stay close to Him as our Shepherd, remain safe, and live forever in heaven. Christ knew that our souls are far too valuable to be lost. The question is: Do we know that?

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