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Leaving 99: The Pursuit God Never Abandons
Scripture: Luke 15:4-7 | Matthew 18:12-14
Track 10 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes, 13 seconds.
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Matthew Wilson Speaker: Matthew Wilson
Matt is the Jr. and Sr. High Minister at Madison Park Christian Church.

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Leaving 99

I honestly could not believe my ears. I reversed the tape and listened again. Sure enough he did say it. "Jesus left the 99 safely in the fold..." That's what he said. So, I looked at both versions of the parable (Luke 15 and Matthew 18) just to be sure. It was just as I suspected...the preacher missed it.

Jesus didn't leave the 99 safely in the fold...He left them vulnerable, in the pasture. I suspect two things are true. One, He believed the 99 could take care of themselves...after all, there were 99 of them. And, second, He valued the one missing sheep so much, He was willing to take the risk.

Most people concentrate on the one... Leaving 99, celebrated Saturday and Sunday, concentrated on the one.... As you read this, I'd like you to think about the 99. The 99 are not left in a safe place; they are not surrounded by a protective fence; they don't have a shepherd immediately at hand; they are expected to fend for themselves.

If, as was clear in last Saturday's insert reflections, the one is lost...then the 99 are the saved. They are the ones in a right relationship with God. They are, in our day, the church. Seems hard to imagine. Jesus leaving His church (apparently) vulnerable, (potentially) hungry, (possibly) alone. Yet He does.

Jesus assumes two things. One, the church will care for itself...it will band together and survive. Two, lost sheep are so valuable, leaving the church vulnerable is worth the risk.

In our consumer culture many Christians (the 99) have become accustomed to special care. They want a comfortable place to meet (a building), interesting food to eat (sermons/lessons; good snacks in class), enjoyable entertainment (good music and drama), special attention and personal care (programs that meet their needs). They basically want it "their way" (ala "Consumerism"). Somehow, some have forgotten they were once that lost sheep.

To be the church (followers/imitators of Jesus), we must have His attitude and His heart. We must care so much for the lost sheep we will be willing to leave the 99...or be left with the 99...while we seek to find that missing sheep. And if we aren't doing the seeking we are busy supporting and rooting for those who are.

If you are the one...are you interested in being found? If you're among the 99...are you willing to search (or let others)?