Our life would look very different if we didn’t have two-day, free shipping on eligible items, food within minutes via an app, or the luxury of a grocery store right around the corner. In one of the stories Jesus tells us in today’s reading, we learn a lot about how an agricultural civilization has different priorities than ours.
It was grueling work. Shepherds likely lived outdoors with their flocks, working tirelessly, and the condition of their clothes and the dirt on their feet surely proved it. On top of that, it wasn’t only the elements they battled but also the enemies: predators of all kinds came to sniff out a meal from the flock. Sometimes, shepherds even had to battle the animals in their care!
And that’s precisely the image we’re supposed to have in our head when considering this parable. Jesus is teaching us what’s precious and how to care for it. In the passage, Jesus illustrates this with an example. Who would look for one sheep that wandered off, even if they still had ninety-nine others in their flock under their care? Not only that, when the shepherd returns triumphantly, he gathers his neighbors together and calls for a celebration! “In the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Which of us reading this today (and praise God for the saints—take a moment to pray for a brother who is reading along in this plan) hasn’t felt left out or forgotten at one time or another? Which of us hasn’t seen someone, innocent and gentle, wander off the path and find themselves lost? How many of us have been that sheep ourselves? Without a shepherd, that sheep would’ve been devoured. With someone protecting it, there could be peace again. It’s the same for us: without the Great Shepherd, looking after us—seeing us in the mess we’re in—we’d be eaten up.
Yet God saw fit to come hunting for us. He loves us beyond our comprehension and finds us when we are still lost. He celebrates in heaven when He brings us home, and He never stops searching for us. Let’s appreciate being found. This is a sobering reminder, one that should inspire us to live differently. Honor our Shepherd, look out for the flock, and live our lives with these we read today as a model.