In telling the parable of The Lost Sheep, Jesus leaves the other 99 sheep pretty much out of the picture. However, as well as the main story of the lost sheep, there are also three things true of the 99 sheep that we can infer from the parable.
¶“4 What man here, having a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, would not leave the 99 in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, delighted. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I say to you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).
If the shepherd who owns the sheep discovers that one is missing, he leaves the 99 sheep in the wilderness and goes in search of the lost one.
Jesus does not include in the narrative how the 99 sheep are looked after in the wilderness, and how they will get home. We know, however, that none of them wanders away from the flock and get lost, for they are the "99 who did not wander off" (Matthew 18:13). They represent "99 righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).
This does not mean the 99 sheep need no shepherd. Rather, the Shepherd has given himself to their welfare, and they have listened to his voice and followed him. So they are not lost and will not wander.
You may be wondering which sheep represents you or me? Is it the lost sheep? "All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
Or is it one of the 99 good sheep? As we said before, a good sheep listens to the good shepherd’s voice, and follows him (John 10:27). That is the way of the 99.
The way of the one is the opposite: "They will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into fables" (2Timothy 4:4)
The good shepherd seeks the sheep who strays from the flock. To rescue that one sheep, and add it back to the fold of 99, the shepherd will invest his very own life. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
So how have the 99 sheep become so steadfast if not by submission to, and trust in, the shepherd who lays down his life for them? He will never forsake them, and they won't wander from him.
When the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep in the wilderness, they know and trust that he will return to lead them home. Meanwhile, having that trust, they stay together in the pasture that he led them to, and leaves them in.
Jesus does not speak of the 99 sheep trusting their shepherd, but he clearly implies that trust. If the 99 sheep do not trust their shepherd, they drift apart, become lost and scattered. The shepherd loses 99, to find and save the one!
Whether a lost sheep needing to be rescured, or a sheep among the 99 waiting patiently for the shepherd to return, that sheep must trust the shepherd. Likewise, trust, belief, or faith in Jesus Christ is necessary if we are not to perish (John 3:16).
As David says, "O my God, I trust in You. Let me not be ashamed. Let not my enemies triumph over me" (Psalm 25:2)..
Jesus said, ¶ "Let not your heart be troubled. Trust* in God; trust* also in me" (John 14:1) *Trust, believe, have faith.
When Moses led the children of Israel through the wilderness there was a lot of grumbling and complaining. (1Corinthians 10:10 )
However the 99 sheep in the parable showed no discontent. When the shepherd was rejoicing, with the lost sheep on his shoulders, the 99 sheep were not bleating disapproval.
As noted in our previous lesson, the shepherd seems to somewhat neglect the good sheep who have not strayed. They are left in the wilderness while the shepherd seeks the lost. And again, when the lost sheep is found, a great song and dance is made of that sheep's homecoming; yet little notice seems to be taken of the righteous and faithful sheep.
In the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:8-10), the second son complains about the song and dance made at the homecoming of the son who went astray. When the church is "neglected" because evangelistic effort is getting the focus and priority, let the church rejoice, not complain.
We are told, "Look to yourselves!" (2John 1:8). The 99 sheep had to do that. However that is not the only place to look. We should also be "looking unto Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
When we look to ourselves, we realise our imperfections. When we look to Jesus, we find the One who can perfect us.
Jesus is "the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (1Peter 2:25). He will not make any of you look to yourselves beyond your ability. When you need him, He will always be yonder, calling you, and saying, “Follow Me!”