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The Lost Sheep - Bible Story Summary

The Parable of the Lost Sheep Shows God's Love

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Parable of the Lost Sheep
Peter Cade / Getty Images

Scripture References:

Luke 15:4-7; Matthew 18:10-14.

The Lost Sheep - Story Summary:

The parable of the Lost Sheep, taught by Jesus Christ, is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible, a favorite for Sunday school classes because of its simplicity and poignancy.

Speaking to a group of tax collectors, "sinners", Pharisees, and teachers of the law, Jesus asks them to imagine that they had a hundred sheep and one of them strayed. A shepherd would leave the ninety-nine sheep and search for the lost one until he found it. Then he would put it on his shoulders with joy, take it home, and tell his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him, because he had found his lost sheep.

Jesus concludes that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.

But the lesson doesn't end there. Jesus goes on to tell another parable of a woman who loses a coin and searches her home until she finds it (Luke 15:8-10). He follows with yet another parable, that of the lost or prodigal son, the stunning message that every repentant sinner is forgiven and welcomed home by God.

Points of Interest from the Story:

  • The parable of the Lost Sheep may have been inspired by Ezekiel 34:11-16:
"For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak..." (NLT)
  • Sheep have an instinctive tendency to wander. If the shepherd did not go out and seek this lost creature, it would not have found its way back on its own.
  • Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18, who not only searches for lost sheep (sinners) but who lays down his life for them.
  • In the first two parables, the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, the owner actively searches and finds what is missing. In the third story, the Prodigal Son, the father lets his son have his own way, but waits longingly for him to come home, then forgives him and celebrates. The common theme is repentance.

Question for Reflection:

Have I realized yet that instead of going my own way, I need to closely follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to make it home to heaven?

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.

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