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Jan Luyken etching, the Bowyer Bible.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7. It is also found in the Gospel of Thomas 107. Possible Hebrew Bible parallels are Ez 34:6-12 and Ps 119:176.

From Matthew 18:12–13

12How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

A similar parable can be found in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (Patterson-Meyer translation):

107. Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine and looked for the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety - nine.'"


The new testament portrays Jesus as interpreting it that "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." This emphasis on the lost, the hurting, the disadvantaged and marginalized is seen throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. While the Pharisees and religious leaders were emphasizing the sentiments of Psalm 1:1 ("Blessed is the man / who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked / or stand in the way of sinners / or sit in the seat of mockers") Jesus instead sides with the prophet Ezekiel when he says "if I say to the wicked man, 'You will surely die,' but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right... None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him." (Ezek 33:14-16)

Jesus likens a "sinner" to one who is lost. Finding him is more important than many who are not lost. In modern terms, we often see many men and women risking their lives to try to save one person. The person in peril is at that moment more important than those who are not. If the "sinners" are people in peril, then it makes sense that Jesus spends more time with them.

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