“And if so be that he find it . . .

July 9, 2004 | 11 comments
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. . . verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”

Matthew 18:11-13.

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11 Responses to “And if so be that he find it . . .

  1. danithew on July 9, 2004 at 12:27 pm

    I love to think about the possibility that the Lord will come look for me and find me. Just thinking about that makes me feel emotional.

  2. Charles on July 9, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    I like this scripture when viewed through the rose collored paradigm of repentance and lost sheep.

    I am utterly and eternally burned out on it for missionary work. Our Stake and Bishop sometime ago decided that this gave a numerical edge to our missionary efforts. 1% of the population was ready to be baptized right now and it was up to us to find that 1% and get them baptized immediately. If your freinds say no then they aren’t in that percent so drop them and move on. Bad idea, didn’t last long, memories of that meeting still plague the hollow crevices of my mind.

  3. Matt Jacobsen on July 9, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    I also like this scripture when thinking of my own or other’s repentance.

    However, it teaches the lesson that if we really want to make the Lord happy (and who doesn’t?), then the best thing is to sin a little here, sin a little there, and let Him come and rescue us. Why would the Lord tell us He gets such little joy out of those who are faithful? Not very motivational if you’re on the straight and narrow.

    But of course the ninety and nine don’t really exist. Jesus is out there searching for all of us.

  4. danithew on July 9, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    But of course the ninety and nine don’t really exist. Jesus is out there searching for all of us.

    Exactly. :)

  5. Jim F. on July 9, 2004 at 7:28 pm

    I like the way that Luke includes this saying better than I like the way that Matthew does. In Luke (chapter 15), this is one of a series of parables that come in response to Pharisees murmuring, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” I first understood the series well when Bruce Jorgenson (BYU English Department) acted it out in a class we were team-teaching: Jesus gives the parable of the lost sheep first, but they seem not to understand (reading between the lines). So he gives another parable, that of the lost coin. Yet still they don’t understand. So he makes the parable personal and gives them the parable that we call “the parable of the prodigal son,” though as Arthur Henry King pointed out, it isn’t about one son, it’s about two.

    I may have some applicability to missionary work, but I think it applies to us more personally, both in our status as prodigals and in our status as self-righteous older brothers.

  6. Kingsley on July 9, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    “I love to think about the possibility that the Lord will come look for me and find me. Just thinking about that makes me feel emotional.”

    You remember the story about Abraham that Hugh Nibley chokes up telling at the end of Faith of an Observer? Abraham, tired, aging, ill, is resting in his tent on the plains of Mamre on a scorching hot day, a day “like the breath of Gehenna, the breath of hell.” It worries him that someone might be out there, that they might be suffering in that shimmering, smoking, hazy hot hell, and so he sends his servant, Eliezer, on a search. Eliezer returns alone. He’s found no one. There’s nobody to find, Abraham! But Abraham is uneasy: he can’t rest: he can’t shoo it from his mind: the mere idea of human suffering is too much for him: he gets up and goes. He goes into hell because there’s a chance of saving someone, there’s a chance to alleviate suffering. He searches all day, only returning to his tent, heartsick and sore, when the sun has nearly set. The Lord is waiting for him. Abraham falls to his knees, but the Lord extends His hand: I’ve got good news for you, old friend; what you did not find in the desert, I promise to you now: a son: Isaac.

    This is one of those apocryphal stories, I think, that “whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom” (D&C 91:5). It is very fine example of leaving the ninety and nine for the one, or even for the possibility of “the one.”

  7. john fowles on July 9, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    I also like this parable for the reasons above. But I must admit that I have long been confused by it. Would a “good shepherd” really leave 99 sheep to look for one? What about the value of the 99?

    Matt’s comment that “but of course the ninety and nine don’t really exist. Jesus is out there searching for all of us” is helpful here. Still, I think there must be something more to this parable–as if bringing back a wayward sinner is only the superficial interpretation of this parable and that the deeper level has something much more significant. But I don’t know what. Of course, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe Jesus told it fully aware that his audience would be skeptical about the economics of leaving 99 sheep alone, undefended, to look for one stray; telling it in this context would put even greater emphasis on the peculiarity of his mission and the mission of God for us.

  8. Kingsley on July 9, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    John Fowles: I’ve never read it as a shepherd leaving 99 in harm’s way for the sake of 1. More like, a good shepherd won’t relax after 99 are safe in the pen–he’ll go out and do what it takes to bring that last one in. So, e.g., a bishop can’t feel comfortable with 99% activity–he’s got to be constantly searching for the 1%who aren’t active. E.g. Thomas Monson’s adventures in the bishopric.

  9. Kingsley on July 9, 2004 at 8:53 pm

    The Abraham story I broadly interpret the same way: leaving the 90 and 9 could mean leaving comfort, wealth, security behind etc.

  10. Kingsley on July 9, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    Also: (sorry): the 90 and 9 could relate to the Prodigal Son in that it’s assumed (in the latter) that the father is pleased with the faithful son–but his joy in the one who’s come back from the brink is more immediate, celebratory, lively, etc., because of the element of surprise in it.

  11. john fowles on July 9, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    Kingsley: right on there. I especially like the connection with the prodigal son that Jim noted and that you emphasized. I agree with you that the parable has this sense.

    But is Jesus really saying that the good shepherd first puts the 99 in the pen then goes out tirelessly searching for the lost sheep?

    “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? (Luke 15:4).

    The words Jesus uses here indicate that the shepherd leaves the sheep in the wilderness rather than safely in their pen. But of course, the way he phrases this hints at how common it must have been for a shepherd to take this course of action. Still, “good” here must mean something more along the lines of benevolent or kind rather than a shepherd with business acument, for example. I know, this is somewhat absurd, but I was just wondering if this ever seemed unlikely to anyone else–that a shepherd in real life would actually risk the 99 to search for the one? Maybe they do or did, I just don’t know.

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