1 of 100… 1 of 10 – the VALUE of ONE – Thursday, 31st Week in ordinary time – Luke 15:1-10
It is the nature of God to seek the lost. In the other religions of the world, man is seeking and searching for God, but in the Christian faith it is the God of the Universe who comes seeking and searching for you! It is for this reason that Luke chapter 15 has been called “the gospel in the gospel,” as if it contained the very distilled essence of the good news which Jesus came to share.
There was a double standard applied to Jesus. He could dine with the upper crust of society without reprisal, but anytime he dined in the home of a commoner, he was criticised – even reprimanded because he ate with “publicans and sinners” as if he had committed a criminal offense. This is the context of Luke 15 and the context of three parables, two of which are unique to Luke; the lost coin and the lost son. In each of these stories, the plot line is: something is lost. A sheep is lost, a coin is lost, a son has wandered away from home. It reveals the heart of God, who searches out for the lost.
The parables are directed towards the scribes and Pharisees (15:1-2) because they do not like the fact that Jesus welcomes everyone unconditionally; they did not like the people with whom He was hanging around. So Jesus reveal something vital; we are valued by God to be of great worth because we are His.
In every story, what is lost is of great worth to the one to whom it belongs. They are lost, not merely left somewhere and become separated from its rightful source. What’s interesting is that each could arguably be seen as having limited value. For example, anyone owning a hundred sheep in Jesus’ day would be very well off considering that most Palestinian farmers might own ten or fewer sheep. Yet there are some things that are loved because they are valuable and some things that are valuable because they are loved. For Jesus, no one is just part of the crowd.
The parable of the sheep also appears in the Gospel of Matthew 18: 10-14. Its’ interesting to note that sheep fit in a very unique category among animals. Many animals may be able to find their way back home but sheep are not one of them. Even more, they have no natural defences. Almost all animals have either claws, sharp teeth, quills, a hard shell, or speed to escape predators but not a lamb; they have no defences.
The wilderness of Judaea was and is hilly and has many places sheep could navigate but humans can’t, which could make the sheep difficult to find. The myriad predators would have rendered the sheep vulnerable. The shepherd looks for the sheep with ostensibly little hope of finding it or finding it alive. Against all odds to the contrary, the shepherd discovers the sheep and restores it to the flock.