A Lost Sheep is Terrified
In this parable, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees’ question why he eats with and accepts sinners. Jesus redefines repentance: Jesus equats himself with the good shepherd.
In the Middle East, a lost sheep can take two to three days to find and restore. When a sheep realizes that it is lost, it freezes and can only “bleat” (cry out). Yet even when the sheep hears the voice of his shepherd, it can’t move because it’s terrified. This is why the shepherd must carry the sheep back to the fold. In the Middle East with its rugged terrain, carrying a sheep is a difficult, dangerous task. Shepherds—hired hands—would be obligated to find the sheep. But because the effort of restoring the sheep was so difficult, they would often wish the sheep dead. However, the good shepherd finds and restores the sheep with joy.
To grasp the full meaning of this, one needs to look at all three parables together. Jesus is defending his position saying that he came to earth to find and restore his people. Through these parables, Jesus is redefining repentance to mean “accepting being found.” Jesus declares his responsibility is to find and restore his people, our responsibility—our repentance—is “accepting being found.”Lost Coin Parable