You might have thought that a shepherd, having lost only one of his 100 sheep, would have cut his losses, given up on the missing or, perhaps by now, dead sheep, and settled down as darkness closed in satisfied that he had 99 safely sheltered in the fold for the night.
When we stop to think about it the very idea that he would leave the 99 behind, with the obvious dangers involved, seems almost mad. And yet that is what the shepherd in Jesus’ parable of the ‘Lost Sheep’ does. Why? Does it speak of his love and care for the individual lost sheep and the one the lost soul? Yes – I believe it does. Does it reveal his longing for the restoration to his flock of what he has lost? Again, yes – I believe so. But I see underneath this story a deeper truth – a truth that allows us to glimpse something that is a reflection of the heart of God – something that is central to his being, purpose and plan – and that something is his desire for completeness.
Jesus elsewhere expands his thinking on this subject while using the same metaphor –
‘I have other sheep [beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become one flock with one Shepherd.’
John 10 (Amplified Bible)
The concept of incompleteness does not appear to be in God’s plan or purpose – his desire always being for completeness, fulness, wholeness and unity.
The very concept of the God the Christian claims to worship can only be understood (to the degree we can ever understand the mystery of God) as the One who exists in union and unity, completeness and harmony – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no concept of the Christian God apart from this.
As far as I can grasp the story of the Bible it is one which has its genesis in union – a union fractured by rebellion resulting in alienation (between God and man) and the journey of that God who, at great cost to Himself, seeks to restore, rescue, reconcile and bring back to union that which He has lost. It is to this end that every story, every metaphor, every picture and the whole sweep of the history of the Jewish nation points.
And it is to this ultimate reconciliation of all things to The Great Shepherd that the Apostle Paul, in breathless wonder, declared –
‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways! For from Him [all things originate] and through Him [all things live and exist] and to Him are all things [directed]. To Him be glory and honour forever! Amen.’
Romans 11 (Amplified Bible)
To expand this concept even further, when writing to the fledgling church at Ephesus, Paul wrote –
‘God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ — which is to fulfil his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time, he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ — everything in heaven and on earth.’
Ephesians 1 (NLT)
Here Paul sees, as Jesus revealed in his story of the lost sheep, everything brought back into the fold of God (The Shepherd) – and He will not rest until all things find their completeness in Him.
The lost soul likewise, even although it may not be fully aware of the fact, will never know rest – never be complete, never be fulfilled until it is brought home to the fold of The Shepherd – the house of The Father.
The good news is that all who seek Him will discover Him already seeking them and there will come the moment when, with joy and delight, the seeking one will be lifted on to the shoulders of The Shepherd – smothered in the kisses of The Father and be brought, with joy and laughter, back to the fold of the Father’s house – the place of completeness.
‘So you also are complete through your union with Christ ..’
(Colossians 2 – NLT)