Matthew 18:10-14 (VOICE)
10 Make sure that you do not look down on the little ones, on those who are further behind you on the path of righteousness. For I tell you: they are watched over by those most beloved messengers who are always in the company of My Father in heaven. [11 The Son of Man has come to save all those who are lost.] 12 A shepherd in charge of 100 sheep notices that one of his sheep has gone astray. What do you think he should do? Should the shepherd leave the flock on the hills unguarded to search for the lost sheep? God’s shepherd goes to look for that one lost sheep, 13 and when he finds her, he is happier about her return than he is about the 99 who stayed put. 14 Your Father in heaven does not want a single one of the tripped, waylaid, stumbling little ones to be lost.
This short passage is bursting with both comfort for us about our worth and value in God’s eyes, and challenge to us about how we should respond to God’s claim on us and about us. I think we might pick up on the connection between these two things is this passage were reversed.
If we start reading at verse twelve, we are greeted with this beautiful picture of a shepherd (Jesus) leaving the 99 sheep that are with the shepherd to go find the one that has gone astray. This should certainly be a comfort to all of us, as none of can claim that we have never strayed from the path the shepherd is leading us on.
It is also important to note that this idea of leaving the many to save the one is a recurring theme for Jesus. It is demonstrated here, in the story of the prodigal son, and in his comment a little earlier in Matthew 9 (and other places) that ‘it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick’.
Jesus doesn’t care less for the 99 sheep than he does for the one; the loving Father isn’t showing favoritism towards the prodigal or taking the older son for granted, and Jesus most definitely cares for all of us, healthy and sick alike. But the point that Jesus is making is best explained through the Loving Father’s words to his son who remained with him: Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:31-32)
Jesus leaves the 99 sheep that aren’t lost not because he cares more for the one, but because his desire is that that one sheep experiences the fullness of God’s kingdom that the 99 with him already have access to.
Our appropriate response to this gift of grace is outlined in verses 10-12. We are to see all of those around us, those that we might consider ‘little ones’, or those of less importance through the eyes of Jesus, so that we might fully understand their worth. This message seems obvious to us now, because of the high value that we place on children in our culture. We celebrate our children and generally do our best to protect and provide for them.
But this is not always the way children have been viewed. Not too long about children were expected to be ‘seen and not heard’. In Jesus’ time, and really through much of history, children weren’t to be seen or heard. They didn’t have a place in the wider culture, certainly not the place of primacy that they have now.
So, to get the full impact of what Jesus means here as he talks about how we are to treat the ‘little ones’ in our midst we shouldn’t think of them as children, but instead as anyone in our community, in our world that we overlook, dismiss, or ignore because we don’t see their value or worth. For it is these – those that are lost, lonely, sick, or oppressed – who are Jesus’ beloved. And it is for them that he will leave the 99 to save. That is a mission we are called to follow him on.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Thank you God, that you seek us out and save us when we are lost or have gone astray. Help us to see those we dismiss as little or unimportant through your eyes, so they might know your love and grace through us. Amen.