The Parable of the Lost Sheep in the Bible is sometimes referred to as the Parable of the Wandering Sheep. This well-known parable is included in the Gospels of Matthew 18:10-14 and Luke 15:1-7. This profound parable used an example of shepherding, an occupation that was very familiar to the people he spoke to at the time. Still, more than 2,000 years later, the message speaks clearly to our hearts today.
You can read the parables at the end of this page HERE.
- Parable of the Lost Sheep Summary
- Parable of the Lost Sheep Meaning
- How does the Parable of the Lost Sheep relate to us today
- 3 Lost Sheep Lessons about God's Agape Love for Us:
Parable of the Lost Sheep Summary
The Parable of the Lost Sheep summary is that a shepherd has one hundred sheep and one of them wanders off and gets lost. The shepherd searches for the lost sheep until he finds it and celebrates its return.
Parable of the Lost Sheep Meaning
The Bible uses many references to shepherding and 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 a sinful (or evil) life according to worldly pleasures and desires. 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.
Because most of us aren’t shepherds, we can understand this parable more clearly if we relate it to something more personal. If you’re a parent of multiple children and one was lost, wouldn’t you search for them even though you have other children whom you also love? If you’re not a parent but have siblings or parents whom you love, wouldn’t you search for a lost one even though you love the other one, too? Think of any people you love – wouldn’t you search for a lost one, even though you love the others? Thinking of it in these terms, we can see the Parable of the Wandering Sheep meaning more clearly.
How does the Parable of the Lost Sheep relate to us today
Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Parable of the Wandering Sheep) over two thousand years ago, but the message is as relevant to us today as it was when He spoke the words. This parable reminds us that God’s love for each of us is so strong that He will go to great lengths to bring us back to Him when we wander away or get lost.
What does the Lost Sheep story teach us?
The message of the Parable of the Wandering Sheep is clear: God’s desire, known as 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.
If you’re not the lost sheep, but you’re one of the faithful ninety-nine, don’t be disgruntled by our Father’s love for the lost one. You can be assured that His love for you is not in any way diminished by His efforts and desire to bring the lost one home.
What is the moral of the parable of the Lost sheep?
The moral of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Parable of the Wandering Sheep) is that Jesus’ magnificent agape love for us means He will go to great lengths to try to bring us back to Him when we wander or get lost.
What is Agape love?
There are many different types of love, but in the English language, we don’t differentiate between them. For example, we love our spouse, but in a different way than we love our children, or pasta! We love our friends, but it’s a different love than gardening or scuba diving.
Agape love defines God’s love. Agape love differentiates God’s love from any other kind of love. Agape love is love we’re incapable of attaining. It’s unconditional, unwarranted, all-encompassing, and everlasting. God’s agape love for each of us began long before we were conceived in our mother’s womb and will last until eternity. The Parable of the Lost Sheep reflects His agape love.
3 Lost Sheep Lessons about God’s Agape 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. This is His amazing agape love!
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 NIV
2. You are welcome to His Kingdom – 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 one hundred sheep and one 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. God will leave the ninety-nine to try to bring this one back home.
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 really reckless – there’s nothing about God that’s reckless! He may seem reckless in human terms because we probably wouldn’t leave the 99, but God’s plan is beyond our understanding – and it’s perfect!)
Parable of the Lost Sheep
Matthew 18:11-13 KJV is included below for your reference. You can find the NIV version (my personal preference) and any version of your choice at BibleGateway Matthew 18:11-13.
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.
Luke 15:1-7 KJV is included below but you can find any version at BibleGateway Luke 15:1-7.
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.)
Follow the links for free Matthew 18 and Luke 15 Commentary. The links bring you to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, but you can switch to another one once you’re there, if you’d like.
Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others (listed below), these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings. More parable lessons are underway. See them all HERE!
- 6 Lessons from Mustard Seed Faith
- The Parable of the Prodigal Son Life Lessons
- 4 Parable of the Hidden Treasure Lessons
- The Parable of the Talents Meaning and 5 Life Lessons
- 3 Parable of the Lost Sheep Lessons Show Jesus’ Love
- 5 Parable of the Good Samaritan Lessons
- Which soil are you like? The Parable of the Sower explained
- 4 Moral Lessons from The Parable of the Ten Virgins
- 3 Life Lessons from the Parable of the Rich Fool
- Lessons about God from the Parable of the Vineyard Workers
- Parable of the Lost Coin Spiritual Lessons
- The Parable of Two Sons – 3 Spiritual Life Lessons
- The Parable of the Weeds – 4 Sobering Life Lessons
- The Parable of the Persistent Widow
- Lessons from the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector
- The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value Lessons
- The Parable of the Great Banquet Lessons
- Parable of the Shrewd Manager Life Lessons For Today
- Parable of the Yeast Life Lessons for Today
- Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Life Lessons
- Parable of the Wedding Feast Life Lessons
- Parable of the Net Life Lessons
- The Parable of the Growing Seed
- The Parable of the Tenants Life Lessons
- Parables of the Fig Tree Life Lessons