The Parable of the Lost Sheep in the Bible is included in the Gospels of Matthew 18:11-13 and Luke 15:1-7. You can find the actual parables at the end of this page, but the Parable of the Lost Sheep summary is that a shepherd has 100 sheep and 1 of them wanders off and gets lost. The shepherd goes in search of the lost sheep until he finds it and celebrates its return.
Parable of the Lost Sheep meaning
The Bible makes clear that Jesus is our shepherd and we are His sheep. One example is:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.John 10:11 NIV
When one of the sheep wanders away from his shepherd, it represents a person who wanders from Jesus by choosing to lead an evil or sinful life according to worldly pleasures. Jesus doesn’t stop that person from wandering because God loves us so much that He gave us free will to make our own choices in life.
But He never gives up on the person who walks away from Him, no matter how many others He has by His side. He still loves and misses and wants the lost one to return. Having that one person return back home to Jesus is cause for great celebration.
How does the Parable of the Lost Sheep relate to us today
Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Sheep over two thousand years ago, but the message is as relevant to us today as it was when He spoke the words.
What does the Lost Sheep story teach us?
His message is clear: God’s Will is to bring all sinners home to Him. That includes you. He loves you. You matter to Him. Every last person matters to Him.
There are 7.8 billion people on our planet. God created each of His children and knows all of us by name. He knows us so completely that He’s counted the hairs on each of our heads! God desires that all 7.8 billion people follow Jesus so they can enjoy the magnificence of eternal life. 7.8 billion people. Not 7.8 billion minus 1. He will go after that 1 until all His children are ‘home’.
If you are the lost one, you can be sure He’s searching for you and never giving up. Just say the word. He’s waiting with open arms to scoop you up and carry you home.
What is the moral of the parable of the Lost sheep?
The moral of the Parable of the Lost Sheep is all about Jesus’ love for us.
3 Lost Sheep Lessons about God’s Love for Us:
1. God loves you more than you can imagine.
You are so important to God that if you leave Him by choosing to live your life without Him, He will follow you to the ends of the earth. He stays by your side, no matter if you acknowledge Him or not. There’s nothing you can do that will stop Him from loving you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 NIV
2. You are welcome to His Kindgom – Always.
The moment you choose to turn to Him, He’ll open His arms and celebrate your return. His greatest joy is having one of His lost return home.
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 15:7 NIV
3. God never gives up on you.
No matter how long you stray or what you’ve done, God has mercy on those who ask for forgiveness. His mercy endures forever. You are His child. All you have to do is come home to Him.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”Luke 7:47 NIV
What does the 99 mean in the Bible
The Parable of the Lost Sheep has sparked the terms ‘the 99’ and ‘leave the 99’. The phrases became popular when they were used in a Christian song called Reckless Love. A link to the song is included AFTER the explanation because I don’t want you to listen to the song until you understand what the terms ‘the 99’ and ‘leave the 99’ mean! The lyrics are very powerful once you understand the meaning.
In the parable, the shepherd began with 100 sheep and 1 walked away. ‘The 99’ refers to the 99 sheep who stayed with the shepherd – representing the Christians who believe and are walking in their faith.
The sheep that left represents someone who’s turned from God and walking in the ways of the world instead.
What does Leave the 99 mean
‘Leave the 99’ refers to God leaving his faithful flock (the 99 remaining) to pursue the one lost sheep who’s walked away from Him. He knows that the 99 He left behind are safe until His return.
Once you know the significance of ‘the 99’ and ‘leave the 99’, the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury and Bethel Music will have a very profound message for you. Take a listen below. (PS – God’s love isn’t reckless – there’s nothing about God that’s reckless! It may seem reckless in human terms because we wouldn’t leave the 99, but God’s plan is beyond our understanding – and it’s perfect.)
Parable of the Lost Sheep
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an 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? 13 And 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.
15 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. 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.
Matthew 18 and Luke 15 commentary
There are several reputable Bible commentaries to help you get the most understanding and impact from reading your Bible. My personal go-to is Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. You can find several free commentaries through Christianity.com.
If you want to purchase a physical copy of a commentary or other study tools, here’s a link to Bible commentaries on Amazon.* (Note: This affiliate link results in no extra cost for you.)
Do you love the parables like I do? If so, you may enjoy The Parables of Jesus Explained and commentary on these others:
- 6 Lessons from a Mustard Seed
- 3 Lessons The Prodigal Son Parable Can Teach You About Life
- 4 Lessons from the Parable of the Hidden Treasure
- The Parable of the Talents Teaches Us 5 Life Lessons
- 5 Love Lessons from the Parable of the Good Samaritan
- The Parable of the Sower – Which soil are you like?
- 3 Ways the Parable of the Lost Sheep Shows How Much Jesus Loves Us
- 4 Salvation Lessons from The Parable of the Ten Virgins