Kenneth E. Bailey shows that the parable is a combination of straight parallelism with an inverted parallelism in the middle.
1. YOU 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep
2. ONE and losing one of them,
3. NINETY-NINE does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness
A. LOST and go after the one
B. FIND that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it,
C. REJOICE he places it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
D. RESTORE 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors,
C. REJOICE saying to them, 'Rejoice with me,
B. FIND for I have found my sheep
A. LOST that was lost.'
4. YOU 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven
5. ONE over one sinner who repents
6. NINETY-NINE than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
(NRSV) (Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15, 64)
The following are some theological themes that Kenneth Bailey finds in this parable (Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15, 91-92)
- Failed leadership. The parable contains criticism of leaders who lose their sheep and do nothing but complain about others who go after them.
- Freely offered grace. The sheep offers no service to the shepherd and in no way earns or deserves his rescue. It comes as a gift.
- The atonement. The shepherd pays a high price both to find the sheep and to restore it to the home. The heart of the atonement is thus found in this parable.
- Sin. Humankind is depicted as lost and unable to find its own way home.
- Joy. The joy of the shepherd and the community at the success of the saving event of restoration is set forth.
- Repentance. Repentance is defined as acceptance of being found. The sheep is lost and helpless. Repentance becomes the act of the shepherd in carrying the sheep back to his home in the village and the sheep’s acceptance of that act.
- Christology. Jesus is the good shepherd who is the unique agent of God who restores the sinner to God. (The joy in the home of the shepherd is equated in the parable to joy in heaven.) This Shepherd must personally make the costly demonstration of love/holiness in order to restore the helpless sheep. Three OT texts stand behind the parable. These are Psalm 23; Jeremiah 23:1-4; and Ezekiel 34:11-16. This OT background strongly hints that the shepherd is more that merely an agent, but in some as yet undefined sense is the very presence of God himself among his people seeking his lost sheep.
Under Christology you will see that Bailey references three other passages dealing with shepherds and sheep. Bailey believes these are central to understanding Luke 15. I will be getting to those shortly but first we must turn to the “Parable of the Lost Coin.”