Who is the One, and Who are the Ninety-nine ?
When you hear the parable of the Shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep seeking after the one who has wandered away—who do you see as the one and who do you see as the ninety-nine ?
Has the one, wandering, sheep gone off, ignoring the shepherd and dismissing the flock ? Is the one sheep a detriment-holding back the flock ? Was the one abandoned or orphaned, perhaps shunned by the flock ? Did the sheep decide the community of the flock was no longer desired ? Maybe the one has run ahead, unaware that the flock as a unit cannot jump so sprightly up the trail ?
And how about the ninety-nine ? When the shepherd leaves them, is it because he knows they will complacently graze in the green meadow and wait for his return ? Do they feel secure because he has left them in the safest place he can find, with sentries to protect them ? Do they have a system of communication that affords them safety in numbers, as they stay within earshot of each other ?
When we look at each other, where do we place ourselves ?
If we identify with the ninety-nine, we probably feel we are righteously waiting for the shepherd, or going where He told us to go. We call and call to the one, have they gone too far ? Can they hear ?
If we identify with the lone sheep, is it because we can see something beautiful just on the other side of this meadow ? Maybe it is a calling to lead, maybe the one is a pioneer ? Does it seem that the ninety-nine just don’t “get it” ? Once returned to the body of the flock, does the one share what was seen beyond the boundaries ? Does anyone hear ?
How does the Shepherd see the one ? The ninety-nine ? Certainly, He sees the beauty in each individual lamb, ewe, and ram. And from His place just above, on the hillside, His heart is no doubt warmed by the safe gathering of His charges together.
Does He smile at the adventurous nature of the one ? Or grow impatient, always retrieving a wanderer ? Would the Shepherd prefer that the whole flock move as quickly as the most energetic ? Has He felt burdened by so many needing His guidance every step of the way ?
Is there any sheep among the ninety-nine who has not been, or will not eventually be, the sheep retrieved from the thicket ?