Barry Newman's Blog

March 2, 2013

The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep (part I)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep — barrynewman @ 12:33 am

The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep

The parable of the lost sheep, that wonderful story told to so many Sunday School children over the centuries is not as innocent and lovely as it might first appear. I am indebted to my friend and colleague of many years, Colin Gauld, for arousing my interest in this simple or not so simple parable.  As I have thought about it I have begun to realise that this blog series could turn out to be a little complicated and somewhat longer than originally I would have thought necessary.

The parable is recorded in two of the Gospels: Matthew 18: 10 – 14 and Luke 15: 3 – 7.

The Parable

Essentially the accounts are the same. A man has a hundred sheep. One is missing. The man leaves 99 of the sheep to find the missing one. There is rejoicing when he finds it.

However they differ in a number of details.  Though they both begin with a rhetorical question, in Matthew, it is in terms of, “What do you think?” (i.e. with respect to, the following situation), whereas in Luke it is along the lines of, “What man of you” (i.e. finding yourself in the following situation) “does not ….”.  Matthew’s account, by far the simpler, then speaks of one of the sheep “going astray”, while in Luke, the man has “lost” one of them.  In Matthew, the 99 are left upon the mountains.  In Luke, the 99 are left in the desert. In Matthew, the man “searches for the one that went astray and then if he finds it, he …” and this is in contrast with “he searches for the lost sheep until he finds it”, in Luke. Matthew then records that the man upon finding it “rejoices over it more than over the 99 which have not gone astray”. Luke is far more elaborate at this point and the story advances with, “And having found (it), he lays (it) on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together friends and neighbours saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”

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