What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? —Matthew 18:12
Um, no. That’s my honest first response to this question. If I were the shepherd, why would I endanger 99 sheep just to try to save one? When I’ve asked this question to little kids (my own plus others in Sunday school groups), they always agree. It seems to me Jesus listeners probably thought the same as us, too. So it makes me wonder what Jesus’ tone of voice was when he asked this question. Or what was his facial expression? Maybe he was asking like a kindergarten teacher, with a twinkle in her eye, would ask her class, “What do you think? The sky is green, right?” to see if the kids were paying attention.
After he got their attention, Jesus surprised his “class” by making a point about God that they hadn’t thought of before. Even if human shepherds wouldn’t do something seemingly so foolish to save a sheep, God will go to any lengths to save one of us. After all, God must know the 99 are safe. While we sometimes act as if certain humans are “disposable,” Jesus makes it clear that the Father doesn’t think so. He wants his class to reconsider how much we value the “lost ones.”
For reflection: Have you ever felt like that one lost sheep? Did you sense that God wanted to find you? Who are the lost sheep in your life or our world now? Have you written them off in any way? What might you do to change that?