Luke 15 – The Lost Sheep – Some Things I Learned

sheep grazing altered photo 2

I’ve been thinking about Luke 15 for several months. Every time I got ready to post about it, something would distract me. I am positive that I am not seeing everything there is to see here, but I also don’t want to prolong offering something for the sake of trying to make it perfect, especially since I’m not perfect. This is part 1 of a 3-part parable. I honestly could not tell you what led me to even look at this and start asking the questions that I did, but I learned some interesting things.

Luke 15 begins with “1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” – Luke 15:1-2

LOST SHEEP

“3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” – Luke 15:3-7

For all the times I’d heard this, it sounded nice – sweet even. Jesus goes to get 1 out of 100 sheep to make sure everyone is safe. I don’t think I had ever really gotten as excited about this as I should have even though it had been applied to me, also. I just couldn’t understand why this would mean so much. We’re considered sheep in many places of the Bible. Since the only places I’d ever seen a sheep in person was at a petting zoo or on someone’s farm, I decided to learn more about sheep.

This is what I got from the sites I visited:
Typical activity

1. Sheep are social and need at least 5 sheep to display normal activity. They become highly agitated if separated from flock.
– It is not good to be isolated and away from other Believers.
2. Ewes teach lambs to follow them. Younger sheep follow older sheep. Rams usually lead.
– Order set in Garden of Eden – Male headship; mothers rear and guide children and follow leading of husband; Paul said “Follow me as I follow Christ” (He was elder and more mature in the faith that he was instructing to others).
Submissive follow the dominant ones. That could be either household, church, or general leadership, which is why we need to be sure those in leadership are qualified and doing what they should before they lead others astray.
3. Sheep will follow other sheep even if it leads to their death. 400 sheep deaths in 2006 in eastern Turkey due to following instinct.
– Bad leadership WILL lead to destruction because the instinct is to follow someone because he seems like he knows where he’s going or what he’s doing. This is where we must be wise, particularly in choosing leaders.
4. There is safety in numbers.
– This is a basic truth we know from the natural, and a church is beneficial to each Believer.
5. Large flocking and following allows one to care for large numbers of sheep at once.
– Christ is the Good Shepherd. If we’re all focused on Him, we will go where He leads and be safe. We cannot all go our own way and still be unified, productive, or obedient.
6. Sheep are pretty much domesticated.
– We are not designed for aggressiveness. We are prey. We have some ability to fight, but we are not to be demon-busters and go off half-cocked thinking we’re scaring off all the host of hell. We “can” fight, but it’s usually done in defense like a ewe protecting her lamb or a ram keeping others away from his ewe. Sheep aren’t known for attacking as a wild cat might.
7. Separation from the flock may be early signs of illness. Sheep that wander away from the flock might be getting ready to have a lamb or be severely ill.
– Ever wondered why people called you to see why you didn’t come to church? They usually want to make sure you’re okay spiritually. Separating yourself (from a good church) typically means there’s something you are doing that you shouldn’t, and you need to address it before it gets worse.
8. Appetite – Sheep love to eat and chew their cud.
– Spiritually, we are supposed to be seeking out God’s Word and meditating (chewing) on it so that we can get as much as possible from it. Sheep that do not eat begin wasting away and get sicker spiritually.
9. Young lambs love to nurse, sleep near their mothers, and play but are prone to accidents.
– Spiritual babes are eager for Christ and the milk from God’s Word. They also don’t know any better, so they can end up hurt if not looked after.

Senses

Sight – Sheep must have light and do not wish to go into dark places.
– Spiritually, we should not be seeking darkness because we are more likely to be harmed than a catalyst for change or unaffected. We are children of the light and walk in the light. We can help guide people from darkness, but we are not to “hang out” in darkness.

Hearing – Sheep have extremely sensitive hearing and do not like loud noises.
– We are taught to be meek. We can be authoritative without being boisterous or argumentative. Increasing your volume does not make you more knowledgeable about anything but increases your chance of an argument or turning people away. A soft answer turns away wrath (Prov 15:1). We speak the truth in love.

Smell – Smell is used to detect predators, find food, and locate others.
– While we do not go around sniffing people, we should be on the lookout when wolves are getting closer to the flock. We should know where our young ones in the faith are, and we should be aware of each other.

Touch – Many animals tend to find touch and grouping to be calming.
– Don’t be so standoffish. Being in the building but 50 feet away from others is not interacting. You don’t have to be “touchy-feely,” but sometimes a hand on the shoulder can be a balm to someone.

Taste – They will seek things to suit their appetites and make them feel good. They can only eat certain foods and still be healthy.
– We have a tendency to want to hear things that make us feel better. We must sometimes hear hard things that are good for us but don’t immediately make us feel good for our spiritual health. We must also be on guard that we do not seek out things that are pleasing to our flesh because they could be spiritually damaging.
Predators – There are two primary types of predators of sheep: external & internal.

The external would be the ones that attack sheep like wolves. These predators aim to injure, kill, and eat the sheep.
– While we have enemies that we understand want to outright kill Christians, we also need to be aware of those who enter the flock and destroy us from within. Generally, the idea for protection is to keep out predators (like a fence) and guard the sheep (like with a watch dog).

The internal predator would be an internal parasite. These are usually seen to affect young lambs.
– Ingesting false doctrine can be spiritually damaging or deadly. Our young ones in the faith are most prone to this as they are still learning some basics and tend to trust those who claim to be brethren.

*****************************

So this was my basic introduction to sheep.

Okay, it was fairly interesting. I hadn’t really given much thought to sheep except that they were fluffy, cute, and children seemed to like seeing them in the spring after babies were born. However, I still wasn’t getting the excitement with this parable because I still had one thought in my mind that I’ve heard for years: “Sheep are stupid.”

Well, I was happy to learn that sheep aren’t stupid creatures. For instance, they don’t invite danger. (I wish I could say the same thing for us sometimes.) As I mentioned above, sheep stay together for safety. They will gravitate toward someone they perceive to be their friend or another sheep. They will keep a safe space between themselves and a perceived danger so that they can escape when needed. However, even though they have a keen sense of smell and can see in color and up to 320 degrees, they have poor depth perception. So, if there’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they will smell the danger but can’t tell who the danger is. They will continue to follow the “sheep” in front of them because it is a perceived friend.

Can sheep find their way home?

So, my mind started wandering again, and I thought about the “Little Bo Peep” nursery rhyme that says sheep will come home on their own. I’ve seen pets come home, but I had no idea about sheep since I’ve never owned or had to take care of one. I had always heard about people looking for their sheep, so it didn’t seem like a sheep was able to get back (because it was “stupid”).

As I was searching the web to learn about wandering sheep, I came across a message board for shepherds (or something like that). I was absolutely fascinated! Here were a group of people that had herding farm animals in common. Some had a few while others had many. However, they all seemed very concerned when anyone posted about a lost sheep. They checked in with the person whose sheep was missing, they comforted each other, and they shared stories. Apparently, sheep can not only find their own way back home, some have found their way back over a 30 mile distance! It may take them a few days to get back, but they can make it. (link)

So…back to talking about this lost sheep of Jesus…
Why would Jesus leave the 99 to go look for the 1 if it has strong senses, likes to be with other sheep, and can find its own way back?

Remember some of the things pointed out above. Sheep will wander off when ill, sometimes when giving birth, from curiosity (young lambs), or when scared. All of these possibilities place the sheep in great danger. Sheep who are alone, feeble, or in compromised states become much easier targets to capture than those with a large flock. This is why the shepherd goes to find the sheep. That means that he makes sure the other 99 are in a safe location and then braves whatever dangers are out there to save the one that may not be able to escape the danger. But wait…there’s more.

If you read the other post about sheep, you may be familiar with the term “cast sheep.” A cast sheep is a sheep that has tipped over and is unable to stand up on his own. One of the times you may see a cast sheep is when he has too much wool. (Did you know that it is possible for a sheep to have too much wool?) A shepherd will have a sheep sheared for different reasons.

What is the purpose of shearing?
1. Wool. The shepherd invests in you and cares for you, but you should be producing also. If your job is to produce wool, then when Jesus comes to you, He should have something He can present that you produced.
2. Too much wool can be hazardous to your health. Too much wool can cause you to not be able to bear the weight/burden you have, cause you to tip over, become distressed, and die. Jesus removes burdens.

Here are a couple shearing videos.
Ever felt like God was exposing you or felt like He was baring your soul to everyone as if you were naked before everyone? Maybe you were.
This feels uncomfortable as God begins taking things that you’re used to having with you, but God knows it is for your own good. Notice the sheep is not happy about this and looks as though she wants to get away and can’t understand how or why this person is moving her into all sorts of strange holding positions.

with and electric shearer

with hand clippers

Back to the parable…

Not only is a wandering sheep in danger of predator attack and unable to defend himself, he is unable to get himself right if he falls. He cannot restore himself and cannot save himself. He NEEDS a saving Shepherd to save him from his own death. A lost and cast sheep has no food, water, or true rest. He kicks and moves helplessly waiting for death to overtake him. He struggles relentlessly, convinced that he can make progress, while realizing he needs help. He can’t go for help. Help/salvation has to come to him.

Check out this video of two cast sheep. One can get up and move quickly while the second is so exhausted from trying to get up on its own, he is unable to stand on his own legs.

– The average weight of a lamb is 125 lbs at 6 months. A ewe (female sheep) may get up to 300 lbs, and a ram (male sheep) may get up to 450 pounds.

“3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” – Luke 15:3-7

Why might Jesus need to carry us back to the flock? An injured sheep needs assistance, and a cast sheep might be too exhausted to stand on his own feet. How long and how far can you walk with something on your shoulders that weighs up to 450 pounds?! Jesus doesn’t state that He carries the newborn lambs (up to 100+ pounds) a short distance. He says He carries the sheep back. The sheep is lost because it chose to wander away. (“6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isa 53:6)

It’s the sheep’s fault he’s lost, but it’s the Shepherd Who looks for him. He doesn’t discount the other 99 and most likely has them somewhere safe before he journeys until he finds the lost sheep. The others are just as precious to him, but the one that’s missing is the one that needs immediate help for its own sake. Even modern-day shepherds rejoice at a found sheep. Can lost sheep find their way back home as the children’s nursery rhyme says? Usually, even if it’s traveled quite a distance. However, the Lord wants us to understand the urgency of finding the lost one. While he may be capable of returning on his own, he might not be in the position to even make the decision if he’s tipped over and distressed. The Lord actively seeks and came to save that who is lost. An injured sheep is easy prey. The sheep may be bleeding or struggling to breathe, yet the shepherd doesn’t complain about the stench, blood, or anything. In our eyes, the sheep might be seen as better off put out of its misery. The Shepherd does all He can to restore the sheep.

So this is why this story about the lost sheep carried such weight. The Shepherd is Christ (as He identified Himself as the Good Shepherd), and he refuses to allow 1% to be lost. While we might be upset about losing a sheep, we might say that it’s only 1/100. Christ says the one that is lost is precious, and the fact that he’s lost means that it’s imperative that He go find it because of all the reasons he might not be able to make it back on its own. Christ is the One Who goes out, risks His life to face wild animals and dangers, carries the weight of the sheep, and cares for it to help it regain its health. Jesus does not leave it because it’s too dirty or has too many problems. We (the sheep) are His concern, and His love for us is so great that he does not complain about our weight, our condition, or why we wandered off. His goal is to find all of His sheep. When He finds us, He celebrates and lets everyone know.

Last point:
As interesting and as exciting as all of this had been to discover, my mind began to replay verses in my head – particularly about the Lord’s voice. We’re supposed to know His voice. As I thought about the sheep, they got to know their shepherd from time with him. That’s the same way we’ll learn God’s voice. When we read and study our Bibles and make effort to learn of Him, it becomes easier to recognize His voice.

This was my favorite part:

“27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

“The Good Shepherd & His Sheep”

“Do Sheep Only Obey Their Master’s Voice?”

 

 

Notice the way they lifted their heads when they heard the shepherd’s voice? Notice the way they hurried to his side? That should be our goal – to recognize His voice and to hurry to His side when He calls us. Gives a whole new light to Psalm 23.

When we look back at those first two verses that accuse Jesus of receiving sinners, we see Jesus inform them that He goes to find the lost so they may be saved.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” – Luke 15:6-7

10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:15

 

 

Resources:

Beginner’s Guide – Sheep behavior – link
How to Raise Sheep – link
An Introduction to Sheep Behavior – link
Do sheep find their way home? – answer
Lost & found sheep comments – link
Sheep Facts – link
Beginner’s Guide – Shearing – link
Shearing with an electric razor – video
Shearing explanation & instruction – video
Shearing with hand clippers – video
Cast sheep – video
“The Good Shepherd & His Sheep” – video
“Do Sheep Only Obey Their master’s Voice?” – video
(Sorry, I don’t have specific sermons for this series because I didn’t write them down as I went along.)


Comments

Luke 15 – The Lost Sheep – Some Things I Learned — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for all the insight & effort you put into this post. I enjoyed it very much. Actually I Google the question “how many sheep need to go missing for a shephard to look for them?” Because it seems unreasonable to go looking for 1 lost sheep? I think we become so familiar with these parables & stories that we normalize them. But when I think of the reality of real shepard losing a real sheep, which would be an asset or source of income, would any real shephard jeapordize 99 for 1 lost??? I don’t know the answer to that question? But I’m very grateful to be counted as a “sheep” & even more grateful for my Good Shephard! & I am one of those dumb sheep who wonders off & to my amazement He always comes & gets me. I am personally putting greater effort into staying with the “flock”. Thank you – may grace & peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied to you.

    P.S. the lost sheep was part of a flock before it ever wondered off – this parable speaks to a particular sheep that is already known to a certain Good Shepherd

    • Thank you! You bring up a great question and excellent points to ponder. Thankfully, the Lord continues to bring us back to Him.

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