“ If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders ...” (Matthew 18:12-14)

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders off, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 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. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)

What does Jesus' analogy of the 'hundred sheep' mean?

This parable is comparing the man to the Supreme Being. And the sheep to each of us. The sheep that walks away represents each of us who rejected the Supreme Being and left the spiritual realm to chase our self-centered desires.

This statement follows Jesus' previous statement regarding being watched over by angels:
"For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)
Remember that the word "angels" is translated from the Greek word ἄγγελος (aggelos) - which means "a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God" according to the lexicon.

This means that Jesus is not speaking of guardian angels as merely sitting and watching - they are specifically engaged by the Supreme Being to help us.

Why, then are they watching over us? Why do we have guardian angels? Because the Supreme Being cares about us, and wants us to come home to Him. This is the reference to the lost sheep. God wants us (His lost sheep) to return to the spiritual realm and return to our innate love for Him.

So He delegates to those who serve Him, to watch over us and help us. So we can come home to Him.

How do we become lost?

Certainly, God never loses us. He is in control and we are always living in His creation. So we are never lost in that sense.

But because the Supreme Being also gives us the freedom to love Him or not - those who decide not to love Him become lost. We become lost in our self-centeredness. Without love for God, we become lost in our own desires.

When we choose ourselves over God, we become lost. It is not as if we can ever get away from God. But God does give us space to forget Him.

This is the purpose of the physical world: To allow us the freedom to forget God - along with providing learning experiences from this 'blank' slate.

You see, The Supreme Being created us to love Him and be with Him. But love requires freedom. So He gave us the freedom to love Him or not.

Those who have not developed their natural love for Him are given these temporary physical bodies. These allow us to chase our self-centered dreams around for a while and at the same time learn (if we choose) to love again.

And He wants us to learn to love, because love makes us happy. And He wants us to be happy. He wants us back - when we are ready.

How does the man save the sheep that 'wandered off'?

This describes the Supreme Being sending his messengers to the physical world to call us back. The Supreme Being wants us to come home to Him but He never forces us. He could if He wanted. But the Supreme Being doesn't want slaves. He wants to exchange love.

The Supreme Being also expands Himself within the Holy Spirit to escort each of us as we journey through the physical realm.

Thus He can be here but not have to leave the spiritual realm. Such is the absolute power and unfathomable authority over time and space. He is not limited either by time and space or by His individuality. He can expand Himself without limit and be with each of us simultaneously.

Such is the greatness of the Supreme Being.

"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."

Jesus is describing the unconditional love and affection the Supreme Being has for each of us. Even though we have offended Him and rejected Him, He is ready at any time to take us back. All we have to do is want to return to Him and become determined to return to Him and He takes us back to Him.

Sometimes people will wonder why they can't just pray and be taken back just like that. But we have to understand that the Supreme Being doesn't want us to whimsically decide: He wants us to make a determination to return to Him.

And sometimes, that determination must be developed. For this reason, after we ask to return to Him He will still present us with various obstacles to overcome. These obstacles are meant to make us more determined. They are meant to make us more resolute.

After all, love cannot be whimsical. It cannot be something done just out of convenience. Love is a complete emotion. It requires complete dedication.

Just imagine if we told someone "I love you - but only when it is convenient to do so." Is this love? No. It is not love.

Love must be unconditional. It must be given without condition or convenience. It must be given with complete trust and dedication.

Why is God 'not willing that any of these little ones should be lost'?

Jesus is referring to the children he is showing before his disciples - but he is also speaking about all of us. He is illustrating that the Supreme Being is attentive and wanting each of us to return to Him.

The word "lost" has been translated to "perish" in the 2011 NIV, as it has been in the King James Version and most of the other English versions. We kept the 1984 NIV translation of "lost" here because the word is being translated from the Greek word ἀπόλλυμι (apollymi), which can mean "perish" or "lost."

What the translators may not have realized is that the spirit-person never perishes. Each of us is a spirit-person - not the physical body - and each of us is eternal. We do not die when the body dies.

But we can become lost. By rejecting the Supreme Being we are escorted to the physical world and given these temporary physical bodies and physical minds - which allow us to forget the Supreme Being and become lost within the illusory nature of the physical world.

And just as the sheep who wanders off can be found and brought back, no matter how far we go down, there is still a path back to the Supreme Being for each of us.

We just have to sincerely ask.

One might wonder why we left Him in the first place if our relationship with the Supreme Being brings us happiness. When God created us, He gave us each the ability to choose whether we wanted to love Him or not. He also gave us a piece of Himself. 

That means that not only can we choose whether to love Him or not, but we have the ability to want to be Him - enviousness.

Why does God give us these choices?

Because there cannot be love without freedom of choice. Forcing someone to love is not love - it is slavery.

Though we have rejected God, He doesn't give up on us. He still tries to teach us what will make us happy. This entire physical universe is set up to help guide and teach us. This is called mercy.

His mercy is also why the Supreme Being sends His representatives to guide us back to Him.

Also notice that Jesus specifically states “your Father.” This means that God is our Creator just as He is Jesus' Creator.

We simply have to accept the mercy of the Supreme Being and decide we want to return to His Loving Arms.