Matthew 18:12-14 – “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” NIV
Matthew 18 begins with the disciples asking Jesus a question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I not sure exactly why they asked Him this question. It could have been just curiosity, or it could have been that they wanted to hear Jesus say: “All of you first-followers of me are the greatest!” This time Jesus doesn’t answer their question with a question but with an object lesson and shocking declaration.
He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4 – NIV)
He goes on to talk about the value of entering the kingdom of heaven and about His followers not getting in the way of people, especially children, entering therein. Then He asks them the above question that assumes that a good shepherd would leave 99 sheep in safe pasture to seek out the one sheep that had wandered off. This same good shepherd would get more excited about finding the lost sheep than he would over the 99 who were already in safe pasture. Jesus then asserts that God the Father does not want any of His little ones to be lost.
What do we think? Well, we don’t always think like God does. We usually don’t see children as important as adults. We don’t usually tell adults to act like children. We tell children to act like adults. Many of us would be satisfied with 99 sheep that are safe in the good pasture and not want to bother with that one cantankerous sheep who wandered off. How concerned are we about children coming to know Jesus? How do we hinder them? How concerned are we with those who are outside the kingdom or “lost?” What will we do about joining God in His mission in this world?