The Parable of the One Lost Sheep

Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:4, NET)

Many Christians misinterpret this parable of the one missing sheep among the 100. They somehow assume that Jesus intended to convey that the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to go after one was an extraordinary, out-of-this-world demonstration of his care. However, as we discuss below, this is not what Jesus intended to convey.

Let’s begin with Jesus’ question again. Please re-read Luke 15:4 above. Jesus asked if there was anyone among them who would not leave the ninety-nine to go after the lost one. This implies that it was normal for the people to do so, and not doing so was rather abnormal. He thus meant that the typical shepherd of that day would do what He just said.

So, what was Jesus’ main lesson for us from this story? Again, context is always important. In Luke 15, which includes the parables of the missing sheep, the missing coin, and the missing son, Jesus used everyday stories that people could relate to to explain that God cares about every person individually. He would go after every one of us despite having ninety-nine at home.

Rather than teaching that going after one is extraordinary, Jesus meant that just as we would leave ninety-nine and go after one—a normal behavior of a caring shepherd—God also cares about people and would come after just one of them. The parable implied that shepherds were behaving the way God does—their natural actions taught us about God’s invisible actions(purpose of parables). If you want to understand how God goes after missing sheep, look at how a woman sweeps the house to look for her missing coin (though she has many already!) or how a shepherd can go look for one sheep even though he has ninety-nine.

Think of the power of this truth: billions of human beings on earth have lived and will be born. As individuals, we might feel insignificant in the sea of humanity to God, who seems to have many options. But despite the billions of human beings, God cares about every one of us individually. He might not just have ninety-nine but billions of people already with Him, yet He will “not be happy” if just one of them is lost. He would go after that one, just as a shepherd or woman goes after her missing coin.

You are valuable to Him. Yes, He went after you; you are now part of the ninety-nine at home. It does not mean His care for you has ceased. Whether you are at home with the ninety-nine or the one out there astray, know God cares about you and wants you individually.


Have you ever lost some money and swept the house or searched your entire house to look for it?

Apply the Word

Knowing and believing our worth in God’s eyes is pivotal. If you are like the one sheep out there, know He cares for you and wants you home. If you are one of the ninety-nine, do not go out there for Him to come after you also. He cares for you at home just as He cares for anyone else. Just know and believe that though God has billions of human beings, you are precious and valuable to Him.


Thank the Father for His wonderful love and care for us individually.

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