I love to read the gospels,especially the parts where Jesus talks about sheep and lambs.Like most of you,when I hear the words “sheep” and “lamb” I immediately see images of fluffy,playful sheep and sweet,innocent little lambs.I doubt there are too many things more beautiful than that.

There is a special relationship that exists between the shepherd and his flock, one not unlike a man has with his own children.The shepherd is the caretaker,or protector of his flock.He is the one that the sheep depend upon for their very survival.

The shepherd is responsible for chasing away the hungry wolves who lurk on the outskirts of the flock,always waiting for an opening to rush in and seize his prize.The shepherd tends the wounded among his flock,gently nursing the hurting back to health.Without the faithful shepherd,the sheep would be scattered to the four winds and would eventually be either killed by predators or die of hunger or thirst.

In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus is once again teaching his disciples a lesson,and this time the lesson is all about going after the one that has wandered from the flock.This story paints a beautiful picture of the love of the shepherd for his sheep,and it is a portrait of Christ and His church.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that [sheep] than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.   Mat.18:12-14  NKJV

What Jesus has done here is reiterate a very basic truth about the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep.Simply stated;if one sheep were to wander away from the flock, the shepherd must leave the rest to find it.No questions asked;that is his duty and his calling.To seek the one who has wandered is his solemn responsibility.This is the value the shepherd places on just one of his sheep.

This is a key point not to be missed:the shepherd places as much value on the one sheep as he does the entire flock.Have you ever wondered why this is?Why not stay with the ninety nine and just write off the one that wandered off on his own.After all,it’s just one sheep and the shepherd still has almost all of the original flock.So what’s the big deal about the one?

To a shepherd,a real shepherd,his heart is in his work.In fact,it’s all about the heart isn’t it?Because the shepherd’s heart is in his work,he has committed himself to them.To the outsider they’re just dumb animals,but to a real shepherd those sheep represent his heart.They represent his love for them.

Christ and the church are another type of Shepherd and sheep aren’t they?Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd that gives his life for the sheep,an analogy that is easy to grasp.Jesus the Good Shepherd leads his flock to greener pastures,to a tranquil place from which to drink,and to a place of safety for the long night ahead.

Jesus,like the shepherd in the field,would stop at nothing to retrieve that one sheep that has strayed from the safety of the flock and bring it home to safety.His heart is in His work.

The straying lamb wants to come home,to feel once again the safety and security that he once knew.This world has a way of turning what looked to be so appealing into hell on earth,and many a lamb has succumbed to the enticements of others. What seemed to be the bright lights calling was no more than a mirage that deceives and binds us with cruel chains.

Perhaps you know one that has strayed,one that has drifted close to the outer edge of the sheepfold,ready to bolt.Maybe Jesus the Good Shepherd has been dealing with you about this particular one,urging you to be the caring and loving shepherd that they will respond to.

If this is you,would you please listen to that still small voice that is urging you to go after the one that has wandered?Would you open your arms to carry that wounded one back to the safety of the flock?It’s not hard,really it isn’t.

You would be surprised to know that to hear the sound of a loving shepherd calling out to him is all it takes to break every chain and free the straying lamb from his situation.

Pastor,Teacher,Worker,Saints of every description….there’s a straying lamb waiting to hear you say “come back home”.