5 Amazing Lessons in the Parable of the Lost Sheep

Cortney Whiting

iBelieve Contributor
Updated Jun 17, 2022
5 Amazing Lessons in the Parable of the Lost Sheep

Whether or not the Pharisees heeded Jesus’ teaching, we today can take to heart these five lessons from the famous parable of the lost sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:3-7)

The more I study the life of Jesus, and the stories he told, the more I admire how countercultural and outspoken he was throughout his life. Where Jesus saw a need, he met it. Where there needed to be reform, he changed it. Luke 15 introduces three teachings of Jesus that capitulate his mission and ministry. The gospel of Luke centers on a social gospel. Jesus is the Savior for the rich and poor, the Jew and Gentile, the clean and unclean.

There are a number of amazing lessons we can learn from the Parable of the Lost Sheep and apply to our lives today. But first, we must understand why Jesus wanted this story to be told.

Why Did Jesus Tell the Parable of the Lost Sheep?

As the scene rises in the chapter, Jesus is not only dining with tax collectors and other notorious “sinners,” but he shows hospitality to such socio-religious low lives. The warmth and kindness Jesus showed to those of lower status raised them to a level unacceptable to the Jewish religious elite, therefore leading to their judgment of Jesus. In response, he tells the Pharisees and teachers of the law the three parables of Luke 15, to which the Parable of the Lost Sheep is included.

In the story, a shepherd of one hundred sheep loses one in the wilderness. Out of concern for the lost sheep, he leaves the others to search for the one. When he finds the sheep, he carries it back to the herd and celebrates with his friends. 

Whether or not the Pharisees heeded Jesus’ teaching, we today can take to heart these five lessons from the famous parable. 

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Kristi Linton

flock of sheep grazing on grass with grey clouds, amazing lessons from parable of the lost sheep

1. God Pursues the Lost

In the parable, the shepherd represents God. Throughout Scripture, the Lord is compared to a Shepherd (Psalm 23; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 95:7; Ezekiel 34:31; Luke 12:32). Jesus also calls himself the Good Shepherd in John 10. In this parable, the shepherd pursues the lost sheep. The way Jesus frames the question to the leaders in Luke 15:4 makes it obvious for them to see that the shepherd must go after the sheep. He cannot not wait for the sheep to come wandering to the fold or to hear his call. Rather, he searches for his lamb. The hope in this message is overwhelming! Even when we are far away from God, completely unaware of his presence, he actively pursues us, calling us to Himself. Perhaps you have a family member or a friend whose salvation you have prayed for. Keep praying! The Good Shepherd is out there searching!

2. God’s Economy Differs from Man’s

In the story, the shepherd temporarily leaves the ninety-nine sheep to pursue the lost one. A herd of one hundred would be a modest flock in the day. Risking the lives of several sheep for one would not make economical sense. Yet, Jesus illustrates that God’s kingdom and economy operates outside the realm of man’s understanding. While we weigh risks and rewards by what we will lose or gain, Jesus asks his disciples to be willing to lose it all for his sake. The ones who humble themselves are the greatest in the kingdom (Matthew 18:4). Jesus illustrates this by showing hospitality to the religious paupers. How might our daily schedules look different if we chose God’s economy over the world’s? Would we exchange a few clubs or activities for outreach opportunities?

3. The Shepherd Carries the Lost Sheep

After the lost sheep is found, the shepherd does not punish the sheep. Nor does the shepherd even make the sheep walk back to the herd. Rather, he places the lamb upon his shoulders and carries him back to the flock. Some suggest this is because the sheep is frightened or disoriented. Despite the reason, the shepherd carries the burden of restoration even after the sheep is found. In times of weariness in the journey, we can trust Jesus to help us carry our burdens (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:28-29). What burden do you need to lay in the Shepherd’s arms?

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Alan Currie

4. Redemption is a Communal Event

When the shepherd returns with the sheep, he celebrates with his friends. The joy is shared among the community. This represents how God feels about those who come to him. Each redeemed soul elicits a celebration in heaven that should be reflected on earth. The religious elite chose to condemn rather than celebrate. When was the last time you celebrated a spiritual milestone with a friend? Do you need to share your story with anyone?

5. Religious Pride Causes Spiritual Blindness

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were so preoccupied judging others, they missed Jesus’ message contained within the parable. Their religious pride hindered them from ever acknowledging Christ as Messiah. Arrogance often blinds us from reality. Proverbs 11:2 states, when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The contrasting characters and how Jesus responds to them in this scene illustrates how God responds to the prideful and to the humble. When have you missed an opportunity God had for you because of spiritual pride?

For a simple story, the parable of the lost sheep imparts an abundance of wisdom that can continue to be applied today. These lessons of hope, redemption, and community can inspire us to share the love of Christ to those who need to hear it most. The challenge is to open our hearts and homes to make room and time for Christ to use us to reach the lost.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/rudall30

Cortney Whiting is a wife and mom of two preteens. She received her Master of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently teaches at a Christian school and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at her blog, https://recapturefaith.com.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

"Be Still and Know that I Am God"
"Pray Without Ceasing"
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Do Not Fear"