Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Gospel of Thomas contains a great deal of original material, much of which is similar in nature to material found in the cannonized Bible. However, with its 113 logions, the fact that the book does not have 2,000 years of being mistranslated and misinterpreted help it in defining some of Jesus’ most uniquely paramount teachings and principles. However, authors of Thomas also seem to pride themselves on the idea that Jesus’ teaching is such that only few can grasp it. Five times in Thomas, Jesus says, “Let him who has ears hear“ (Thom: 2, 21, 63, 65, 96), compared to just 4 times in the 4 canonical gospels. This suggests that there are simply some who “have ears,” the ability to understand, and other who do not. Understanding the gospel’s various sayings is meant to be the key to avoiding death, as defined in much of the Gnostic text (Thom:1). This emphasis on discovering hidden knowledge is one of the key messages throughout the gnostic texts. It is then necessary to discuss lessons as defined in many of these texts, most specifically those found in The Gospel of Thomas.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is one of the most often interpreted, and also one of the most under-emphasised as an avenue to reach those who need to awaken beyond Dogmatic spirituality. The parable is as follows;

“Jesus said, The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep.
One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety- nine and looked for
the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, ‘I love
you more than the ninety- nine.'”

First, understand why parables are given. Parables are given as a way for one to initiate himself into knowledge. Through meditating and praying upon the parable, upon working out his own salvation, the layman can find the wisdom hidden in the parable, thus initiating himself. The parable itself is a gate-keeper. Those who lack the passion for truth will not have it given to them. They must strive to learn. They must work to understand. In this, they show that their passion is truly worthy to understand the hidden mysteries.

The kingdom spoken of here is the kingdom of salvation, of Enlightenment. Now, keep in mind that Jesus is saying that the kingdom itself, in its entirety is like all 100 sheep. The kingdom is not represented by a separation of sheep, but is, in fact, the entire herd. In that regard he makes no distiction between the 99 sheep who do not stray, and the one sheep who does stray. This is important in realizing that our possibility of perfection in the eyes of God is possible, and that it is an invitation extended to all. It further shows that the difference between the 99 sheep and the one sheep is representative of different locations of souls along the path within the kingdom. The entry ways into the kingdom may be many- there is no single-file line to God.

Out of the 100 sheep, one wanders astray. At the moment the shepherd goes to search for this lost sheep, he says two things. First, he says that he trusts that the other 99 sheep will not also become lost. He believes they are obedient. This shepherd (God) is telling the sheep (souls/humans), “I trust your obedience so completely, that I will go looking for the other sheep, and I know you will not stray. You will stay where you are. You will wait for me.” However, despite his love for the 99 sheep who stay, he is also expressing that somehow searching for this one lost sheep is worth the lives of the other 99 sheep. Although these sheep will not stray, do they not remain targets in the wild? This shepherd must find it important enough to find this stray sheep that he momentarily abandons the other sheep. This is what God says to the obedient souls who wait on him. He will return, but he has gone to retrieve those who wander. But, why must they wait while God seeks out the one who wandered?

The fact that the wandering sheep was the largest has little to do with why the sheep was sought after so intensely. Instead, it says more about why the sheep wandered to begin with. As the largest sheep, he likely felt less threatened of solitude and loneliness than the other sheep. Some part of this sheep felt he could defend himself in the wild. The size of this sheep is not unlike the size of any man’s consciousness. The more robust the individual, the more spiritually daring, the more intellectually driven, the more likely that man is to stray. This man is unafraid to venture out on his own. He doesn’t mind that he is a target, in fact, he relishes in it. He is in love with independence and his ability to experience life fully for himself. He is the one who ventures further away. He is meant to lead. Through the efforts of a man like this, the 99 who follow will become 500, and the 500 will become 5,000.

Upon retrieval of this lost sheep, despite his toil, the shepherd expresses that he loves this sheep more than the 99. Why would this be? Why would God favor those who take the independent path away from him, before being found? Because God loves rebels. Throughout history, God has used the brazen, those unafraid of ridicule, to be his mouthpiece. The robustness of a man’s soul, his willingness to experience life and to fail, will both be his undoing and his salvation. In his early life, Buddha was a prince. At the moment of his satori, his first glimpse of salvation, he dropped it all to experience the truth. He chose the hardships of a pauper. He left behind a prince’s life to find the great knowledge. He was the largest sheep who strayed, and, once found, was the one chosen to lead. Sheeps like Buddha will experience great pain, great loss, great abandonment, but God will seek him out first to be retrieved. The boldness of spirit that leads man down his own path of destruction will also lead him furthest down the path of righteousness. When this sheep comes back to the herd, he will lead from the front. He will be daring to take the first step into unknown lands, and he will be the strong, robust sheep that the others will follow. He will be the example. He will be loved, above all, by his willingness to stray and the conviction in his spirit that leads him into unchartered territory. He will become the example, and the one loved by God most dearly.

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