Many have heard the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7), but have you ever heard the story of how the sheep got lost?

The Resentful Rejection

The sheep was one of many sheep loved by the shepherd. But when you’re born into the flock and grow up in that flock and that’s all you know, at times one takes it for granted. The sheep was told over and over again, listen to the shepherd and obey him, for he provides protection and peace for the flock. As a young sheep it had no idea what type of dangers existed out there. Sure it had heard the warnings of the valley of death, the wolves, lions, and thieves. It had been warned not to hang out with the goats and their unruly ways, but to stay with the flock. As a young sheep it had always been buffered by the older sheep. A wonderful gift that the sheep began to resent as it grew in size and stature.

As a bigger sheep it was placed on the outer perimeter where it could see the surrounding area up close. It could see the other pastures and it often seemed as though the grass was green on the other side. Now the sheep had a beautiful coat. As the other sheep commented on his coat, it became very prideful. It considered itself better than the other sheep and dreamed of the day he would be famous. In that day, its special coat would be draped around the shoulders of the king.

Well, one day in the middle of one of its conceited day dreams, the shepherd called the sheep to follow them through a mountain path. The sheep questioned whether the shepherd knew what he was doing.  The good pasture the sheep had its eye on was the other way. “I’m tired of listening to the shepherd; I’ve heard it all before.” And with that, the sheep turned and wandered off in the opposite direction.

The Wandering Woes

It was a liberating feeling to go off on its own. It was new and exciting. The sheep was in control, it was calling the shots.

As the sheep walked along it noticed some goats up above on the hillside. He always wondered what it was like to climb up the cliffs, but the shepherd would never let the sheep go there. Just then one of the goats called down to the sheep: “Come on up and see what its like to live on the edge.” Living on the edge! This was living…no rules, no authority. The sheep eagerly scampered up the rough path. As the sheep reached a high cliff, it looked back on the land below. It could see for miles, and off in the distance it saw the flock traveling out of sight. Thoughts of its family and friends and their concern never crossed the sheep’s mind, feeling as though it was on top of the world, the world made just for it.

After its moment of prideful pondering, the sheep looked around and noticed that its new goat friends had disappeared. Where could they have gone so quickly? As the sheep stood all alone, the silence was deafening. That is until it was broken by the roar of a lion. (The sheep had never seen one before but the sharp claws, the large teeth, and hungry eyes fit the description of the tales the sheep had heard when it was back with the flock). The sheep backed up sheepishly, as the lion lunged even closer. The lion struck the sheep, tearing wool from its back. The sheep felt pain it had never imagined as he watched blood trickle down its back. As the lion lunged in for the second attack the sheep lost its footing and slid down the steep cliff, bouncing off rocks and through thorn bushes. After a terrifying fall, the sheep found itself lying in a pit. Its whole body ached and it knew at least one of its legs was broken.

As the sheep lay there for hours in a bloody dirty mess, it realized how foolish it had been to go off on its own. There was no one to help it. Its coat, which it had taken so much pride in, was destroyed. The freedom it coveted became a prison of despair. The sheep realized that it was nothing but a “lamb chop” waiting to be devoured by that lion or whatever else came its way. With a hopeless sigh, the sheep uttered: “I’ve made my bed and now I guess I’ll have to lie in it.”  With that it fell asleep for the night.

The Restoration of Rejoicing

When the sheep awoke he saw a dark shadow moving over it. Wolf or lion, whatever was the source of the shadow, this was surely the end. As the sheep caught a glimpse of what was looking down on it, its heart was filled with even greater fear. For it wasn’t a lion or a wolf…it was the shepherd.

What was the shepherd doing way out here? To be here he would have had to leave the other 99 sheep behind. As the sheep looked closer, it noticed the shepherd’s arm was wrapped in a bloody cloth. He must have had a run in with that lion too. “No doubt kindling his anger even more towards me,” thought the sheep. He probably came to kill me himself. As the shepherd began to climb down into the pit, he lost his footing and slide down into the pit with the sheep, scraping up his hands, feet, and side.

As the shepherd reached over to the sheep, it shook waiting for a beating, but instead the shepherd picked the sheep up and placed it on his shoulders. “He’s lifting me out?! (What mercy!) He’s lifting me up on his shoulders…he dares to restore me to the flock after all that I have done,” thought the sheep. The sheep had remembered how the shepherd had carried the little lambs on his shoulders, but it was a grown up sheep, over a hundred pounds. The fat sheep weighted down the shepherd and blood started pouring down the shepherd’s neck as the thorns that were entangled in the sheep’s wool began to pierce him.  It was exhausting just watching the shepherd carry the sheep with all his weight; eventually the sheep fell asleep.

As the sheep woke up they were no longer climbing down the cliff, but they were nearing the village. The sheep could see the rest of the flock resting in peace, off in the distance the shepherd’s friends and neighbors were coming out to greet him. The shepherd called out in a loud voice, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”

It was then that the sheep finally understood what it meant to be a sheep of this shepherd; he knew what it meant to be loved.  In its wildest dreams the sheep could have never imagined how liberating it would feel to be brought back to the flock, how special it would be to be draped around the shoulders of the Good Shepherd. Nor could that lost sheep ever have known how famous it would be one day because of the Shepherd who found it.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25

Have a great day in the LORD!

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