Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. Jeremiah 23:3
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? Luke 15:4
These verses talk about sheep and the shepherds that tend them. The image in Jeremiah is of a whole lost flock, a scattered flock that has been driven out into surrounding lands. The people are in exile in other countries, far away from their shepherd it must seem. The verses preceding verse 3 are an admonition to shepherds who have not been good shepherds. They are addressed to the priests and rulers of the people who should have been good leaders, who should have been teaching about and leading the people to follow their Lord. Instead, they have been doing wicked and evil things and have led their people astray. Because the people have stopped following God’s way, He has scattered them into exile. Our verse however shows the saving mercy and power of God. He will punish the evil leaders and bring all the sheep back into the fold.
In Luke it is a bit different. Most of the flock has stayed where they belong, doing what sheep are supposed to do. For sheep, that is following their shepherd to good grazing areas and safe drinking spots. But there is that one sheep who has wandered off. Maybe it wanted to do its own thing, check out what might be greener pastures. Maybe there were some more interesting sheep over in another flock. But this sheep is lost from the shepherd’s perspective. This shepherd is a good shepherd, he cares for all the sheep and does not want even one to wander off. Leaving the 99 obedient sheep in place, this shepherd searches in the wilderness to find the missing sheep. Unlike the leaders Jeremiah writes about, he truly cares for all his sheep.
In Sunday school when we taught this story we had the kids make a little art project. They drew a pasture, with blue sky above, and colored in a nice pond for water. They used cotton balls to make sheep, Then, they wrote some words on it: “Jesus is MY shepherd. (Name) is Jesus’ lamb.” Jesus is a loving, caring Good Shepherd. A shepherd that cares personally for each and every one of us. In Jeremiah, God says that He will himself bring the people back into the fold, back from exile. This is a God and Lord who wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. One who is always ready to forgive and get us back into the fold.
Jesus, we all have sinned and fallen further away from you. Thank you for bringing us into your loving fold. It is by your grace that we can be drawn closer to you. It is by you seeking us when we are lost that we find ourselves at peace. Help us seek others who are lost be as shepherds to them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.