“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?” (Matthew 18:12, New King James Version).
Jesus often spoke in parables, stories or word pictures easy for His listeners to understand. Although the settings may not be as familiar in our day, the teachings are timeless. One such illustration told of a man with one hundred sheep, but one had strayed from the rest of the flock. The shepherd left the flock to search for the one missing. It was a simple story but held a deeper meaning.
Missing but Valued
By nature, sheep cluster together and move as a flock in “follow the leader” style. Nothing in the parable tells why the sheep was separated—inattentive, weary, caught in a thicket—but something drew it away from the others. I suppose it really doesn’t matter why it was lost and alone. What is important is the shepherd realized one was missing and valued it enough to leave the others to find it and bring it back.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus noticed the individual. Yes, the masses followed Him, but He always took time to minister to that one lone person. At times His disciples became impatient with these interruptions, urging Him to move on. Whether a blind man along the roadside, a person tormented by demons, someone deformed by leprosy, or a downtrodden beggar, Jesus cared about the lost and alone. The Pharisees criticized Him for spending time with sinners, but He understood the value of one lost soul regardless of their circumstances.
The Importance of the One
Sometimes we get our values mixed up. We enjoy being involved in “big things” for God, things others will notice. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in “important” work that we overlook the lonely, broken souls around us. Galatians 6:2 tells us to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Our words of encouragement, our compassion, our prayers can make all the difference to someone who has lost all hope.
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me . . . Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40, NKJV).
Look around you. Who needs a ministering touch today? You are acting in behalf of the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, if You were walking our streets today, You would not hesitate to reach out to the drug addict, the homeless, those struggling with mental illness, the disabled. You would speak to the prostitute, to the gang member, to the downtrodden and lonely. Can I do any less than You? Help me to remember that as I reach out to others, I am doing it to You.