Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is about a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one which is lost. It is the first member of a trilogy about redemption that Jesus tells after the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with "sinners." The two parables that follow are those of the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son. The parable of the Good shepherd, a pericope found in, derives from it Matthew.


In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is as follows:


The parable shares themes of loss, searching, and rejoicing with the Parable of the Lost Coin. The lost sheep or coin represents a lost human being.
As in the analogy of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the shepherd, thus identifying himself with the image of God as a shepherd searching for stray sheep in Ezekiel. Joel B. Green writes that "these parables are fundamentally about God,... their aim is to lay bare the nature of the divine response to the recovery of the lost."
The rejoicing of the shepherd with his friends represents God rejoicing with the angels. The image of God rejoicing at the recovery of lost sinners contrasts with the criticism of the religious leaders which prompted the parable.

Depiction in art

The image from this parable of the shepherd placing the lost sheep on his shoulders has been widely incorporated into depictions of the Good Shepherd. Consequently, this parable appears in art mostly as an influence on depictions of the Good Shepherd rather than as a distinct subject on its own.


While there are innumerable references to the Good Shepherd image in Christian hymns, specific references to this parable can be recognised by a mention of the ninety-nine other sheep.
Perhaps the best-known hymn describing this parable is "The Ninety and Nine" by Elizabeth C. Clephane, which begins:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd's care.
Away from the tender Shepherd's care.

The Good ShepherdBrooklyn Museum