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The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4–7)

by Stephen Hebert on Thursday - 29 March 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is one of Jesus’ well-known parables. In Luke, it appears in chapter 15 as part of a triumvirate of parables—Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Prodigal Son.

Within the parable, there are three major players:

  1. The Shepherd
  2. The Lost Sheep
  3. The Ninety-Nine (Loyal) Sheep

Typical interpretation of the parable makes Jesus out to be the Shepherd, the sinner to be the Lost Sheep, and believers to be the Ninety-Nine. I wonder if this is the only way to interpret this parable.

While Jesus’ parables are typically likening the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth in some fashion, they usually do so in the third person (correct me if I’m wrong here). In this case, Jesus sets his audience in the shoes of the shepherd. It is not a king or some woman or a wealthy landowner of some kind. It is “you.”

Is it possible that at different stages, in different situations and times, we are all three characters in this parable? Sometimes we’re the shepherd, going after lost sheep. Sometimes we’re the ninety-nine faithful who hang back. Sometimes we’re the lost sheep who has gone astray.

I suppose there could even be a fourth character in the parable: the friends who rejoice with the shepherd when he returns. Perhaps we’re they too.

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