What Is the Parable of the Lost Sheep?

The parable of the lost sheep is a passage in the Christian Bible in which Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who searches for one sheep that is missing from his flock of 100 sheep. The parable of the lost sheep is located in two places in the Christian New Testament: Luke 15:1-7 and Matthew 18:12-14.

The shepherd in the parable represents Jesus and the one lost sheep represents a lost person whom Jesus seeks and brings back to himself with great rejoicing. In Luke's account, the Pharisees and religious leaders scold Jesus for associating with tax collectors and sinners. In response to the religious leaders, Jesus uses the lost sheep parable to illustrate his love and concern for each individual person. Jesus further condemns the Pharisees' attitude in saying that he rejoices more over the lost sheep that he recovers than over the 99 that never stray.

In the book of Luke, this parable is the first of three parallel teachings: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The common themes in all three stories are repentance, redemption and restoration. John 10:11-18 is a cross-reference to the lost sheep parable. In this passage, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and again expresses his willingness to restore his lost sheep at any cost.