"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one ..." (Luke 15:4-7)

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:4-7)

What does this parable of the sheep mean?

Jesus is using an analogy of a shepherd losing a sheep.

The word "repent" here is being translated from the Greek word μετανοέω (metanoeō), which means "to change one's mind" according to the lexicon. What Jesus is speaking of is actually a change of heart.

What is a change of heart? 

This is when a person changes their consciousness from one of self-centeredness to being God-centered.

Being God-centered means our life revolves around the Supreme Being instead of ourselves. It means seeking to please God rather than please ourselves.

Such a change of heart is quite difficult for those of us in the physical world because we live within a world of illusion. While the physical world is real - just consider some of the illusions of the physical world:

- We occupy these temporary physical bodies for a short time, yet we live as though our body will last forever.

- We think the forms and things of the physical world are permanent, yet they are constantly dying, changing and dissolving - as the molecules and atoms making them up are being recycled from one form to another.

- We search for happiness within the forms and things of the physical world even though these forms or things bring no happiness.

Is self-centeredness satisfying?

Each of these illusions provide us with the encouragement to continue our intensive seeking of self-satisfaction. But the illusion is that seeking self-satisfaction (self-centeredness) actually brings us emptiness. It is not fulfilling.

This is why even the most famous, wealthy and powerful people are not happy.

Some of us, when we get tired of chasing our self-centered hopes and dreams, will seek nothingness - sometimes called the "void." Sometimes this comes in the form of intoxication. Or it can be a philosophical pursuit.

Several philosophies embrace this idea that if we meditate hard enough, we can become nothing - and merge into the void. Some also teach this will automatically happen at the time of death.

What they fail to understand, however, is that the person within - the spirit (each of us) who is temporarily occupying the physical body and mind - is active by nature. The spirit-person remains active, with or without a physical body. While one might be able to experience a temporary state of nothingness or void - it won't last for long as the spirit-person again seeks some activity.

So the problem is not solved by becoming nothing. The problem can only be solved with a change of heart. It can only be resolved by us learning to love - an unselfish consciousness.

The change of heart that Jesus speaks of means putting the Supreme Being and His children before our own selves. This means seeking to please God instead of pleasing myself. It means becoming a loving servant instead of a master. Just consider Jesus' statement regarding this:
"The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matt. 23:11)
Coming to realize that we are a servant comes from seeing oneself as insignificant - and seeing God as our life and soul.

Is loving God the answer to our emptiness?

This is what Jesus is guiding his students to understand. By their understanding just how much they are cared for by the Supreme Being - as illustrated in this metaphor about the lost sheep - they are being re-introduced to the loving nature of the Supreme Being.

This loving nature of God is an important aspect of coming to know and love Him. Jesus' most important instruction is that we come to love God with all our heart and soul. But in order to love someone, we have to know them right?

Jesus is re-introducing his students to the Supreme Being. He is showing them part of God's loving nature in this metaphor. Even though we have rejected the Supreme Being and gone off to try to enjoy by ourselves, He still welcomes us back.

God is overjoyed when we decide to return to Him. What kind of person does this? Only a kind, generous and forgiving person does such a thing.

The Supreme Being is kind, generous and forgiving. He is lovable. We can put all of our worries and our anxieties upon Him and He will give us peace. We can take shelter in Him and He will give us protection. We can put our loneliness and the love we seek to give and receive upon Him and we can exchange a loving relationship with Him and become spiritually fulfilled. This is why this is Jesus' most important instruction:

" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27)