Why did the Good Shepherd LEAVE
his flock to look for one lost sheep?

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Question: Why did the good shepherd, in Jesus parable, leave ninety-nine sheep to look for just ONE that was lost? Who watched over the ninety-nine sheep? Why didn't the sheep go astray after they were left by their keeper?

Answer: You've asked some interesting questions but I think they are based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of a "parable." A parable, like the one you are referring to commonly called the "good shepherd," is not intended to portray a real life situation but is a simple story told to make a point.

This parable of Jesus' is found in Matthew 18 and in Luke 15. He opens it by asking what should a good shepherd do if one of his sheep is lost (Matthew 18:12). He answers his own question by stating the keeper of the flock would leave the 99 sheep that are not lost to pursue the one that is. When the sheep is found the shepherd is said to be happier at finding it than the fact that the rest of the flock was not lost (verse 13).

The main characters of this story are used only as an analogy that tie human emotions and logic to the emotions and logic of God and help us better understand how He thinks.

The parable does not present a real life situation. In the real world one would want to know the details of how the ninety-nine sheep were to be protected while the shepherd was gone. Adding such detail to the story, however, would serve no tangible purpose in making the point or teaching the lesson.

Even in today's world, the herdsman would call a friend or family member to watch over the flock if he expected to be gone for an extended period. Or perhaps the shepherd knows the area where the sheep are grazing to be safe for the few hours he would be gone. If the herd would be in danger, he probably would not leave all of them to search for just one.

These mundane details, however, do nothing to enhance the illustrative story or teach the intended lesson and so they are left out.

The Parables
of Jesus
How are
Christians the
salt of the earth?
How will Jesus separate the sheep from the goats?
What is the meaning
of the Rich Man and
Lazarus parable?
Who was the
Good Samaritan?
What is
casting pearls
before swine?
What does an EYE for an EYE mean?
I do not know if you've read Aesop's Fables, such as the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare (rabbit), but that is a non-Biblical example of a parable. On the surface, this story in not a reflection of what happens in the real world, as hares (rabbits) and tortoises not only do not speak to each other, they do not compete against each other in races. The purpose of the story, however, is to teach the lesson that steadfast progress and hard work sometimes are better than raw speed in achieving a goal.

Jesus does tell us the purpose of his Good Shepherd parable when he states "In just the same way your Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost" (Matthew 18:14). The 'little ones' he is referring to are those people who are new believers in Christ.

Additional Study Materials
What do words
symbolize in the Bible?
 What is
casting lots?
What is the
armor of God?
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