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Would you leave 99 to save one? Or go for the greater good?

Would you leave 99 to save one? 99 what and one what? 99 people and one person. In a time when we always hear about the greater good, would you do that? When we’re so willing to sacrifice a few to save many, can this 99 for 1 kind of thinking be justified?

Would you leave 99 to save one? Or go for the greater good?

Here’s an example of choosing the 99 over the one.

““Jan . . . She’s just one girl.” Her voice was soft and soothing. “Lost, wandering, hurt, sure. I can understand that. But our ministry goes way beyond this one person.” She leaned forward and put her open palm on the desk for his hand. He took it. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”” [1]from “When Heaven Weeps: Newly Repackaged Novel from The Martyr’s Song Series (The Heaven Trilogy Book 2)” by Ted Dekker

“It’ll be okay, I promise.” That was from a book. When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker. In real life, who can promise that the one left alone will be okay?

But we’re going to talk about another book. And a different person making the decision to save the one and leave the 99.

Sacrifice for the greater good. The few for the many.

It sounds so reasonable.

There are so many people.  No one can help everyone.
And sometimes it’s easier to let one go.  Especially when someone is pushing us to do just that.

And yet …

Jesus told His followers to leave 99 to save one

Obviously, there’s a disconnect here. Who’s right? Which one should we choose? Sacrifice the one? Or save the one?

Well, it probably depends. Those of you who are Christian probably recognize where this is going. Jesus is the One who left the 99 to save the one. Jesus is also the One who turned all sorts of conventional “wisdom” on its head. Why? In large part, Jesus has a truly long-term perspective on life. As in the next life. He’s not like so many of us that can’t think much beyond the next few minutes.

Jesus said things like this:

The Parable of the Lost Sheep – Luke

15:4-7 pp — Mt 18:12-14

Lk 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Lk 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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.”

Oh.  That’s tough.  Leave 99, just to get that one.  But then, it is the one who needs it the most.  

But when it’s someone you really care about (like the man’s fiancée in When Heaven Weeps) who is telling you to leave the one, don’t we want to please that person and try to ignore the one? When that person tells you “It’ll be okay, I promise.” you really want to believe that it will be all right. Even when every ounce of your being tells you it won’t be all right at all.

Or when that person is kind of a pain (like the one in When Heaven Weeps) and you don’t really want to go to all that trouble? You know, someone we just don’t care about enough to take a risk. Or worse still, someone that we won’t miss if the worst actually happens.

And from a uniquely Christian circumstance, what about when our ministry gets really big and it gets even easier to ignore the one? Will we take the risk? Are we willing to alienate donors, volunteers, and others who support what we’re doing? All because we didn’t help one person. We, more than most, should care about what Jesus said, because we should also realize His long-term concerns for that one person.

Jesus also said:

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Lk 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

So it’s not just sheep. It’s coins as well.  And while we may not value sheep (how many people own sheep anymore?) or even coins (paper, plastic, and electronic transfers are so much more valuable), they were both important in His time.  Maybe today it would be the parable of the debit card or the ATM password. And more recently, cryptocurrency.

And it’s two things in a row on the same topic.  Once is important enough.  Twice in a row – we know Jesus is trying hard to get our attention! Jesus had a practice of repeating things to try to get to understand – this is important!

But still. It’s only one person. And maybe that person is a problem. Even worse, we might look bad to some if we go after that one person. It’s easy to convince ourselves that one person just isn’t worth it.

And yet, our example, our teacher, our Lord and Savior, Jesus, told us exactly the opposite. Jesus let us know that the 99 will be OK and we need to go help the one who needs our help the most.

And then, Jesus did this:

Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders

Jn 7:45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
Jn 7:46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
Jn 7:47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Jn 7:50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
Jn 7:52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.

Jn 7:53 Then each went to his own home.
Jn 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Jn 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Jn 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Surely, Jesus could have avoided this.  After all, He knew it was a setup.  He knew He was going to get people mad at Him.  And this woman had committed adultery.  This woman checked every box on our list of reasons to not get involved. Nothing good can come from this.  Or could it?

Jesus thought she was worth it. Jesus thought something good could come out of it. Which means, in reality, Jesus knew something good would come from it.

Jesus knew the Jewish leaders were out to kill Him. And that they would succeed.  

 But that didn’t stop Him.  He did think the woman we just looked at was important.  Important enough that He would rescue her in front of the very people who were going to kill Him.  Important enough that He took time out of His busy schedule for this one person.  Important enough that He didn’t care about the circumstances that put her where she was.  Actually – He did care – and it was His care that made Him go to her, as opposed to staying away from her.

And what about us?

We read the Bible.  At least, if you’re a Christian, you should read it.  We know, hopefully, what Jesus said and what He did.

We claim to follow Jesus.  Although some who claim that really don’t, for various reasons.

We also live in the world and have friends, desires, wishes, fears, Etc.

So do we really follow Him?  Or do we just try to look like we do? Pretend we do? But then we don’t?

When we read the Bible, it’s not just a bunch of stories.  It’s a way to live.  

Conclusion – Would you leave 99 to save one? Or go for the greater good?

For those of us who are shepherds, we really should be looking for and saving the ones.

And if we are the one, Christian or not, we need to go find a shepherd.

Jesus thinks we’re all worth being saved. Whether we’re part of the 99 or are the one in a hundred, this is for us.

John 3:16

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Actually, verse 16 is for everyone. However, not everyone will choose to accept it. But when we do, we will have that eternal life with Jesus. And we can walk in the light.

As far as the title, “Would you leave 99 to save one? Or go for the greater good?”, we know there’s actually not a choice in those two questions. The greater good is met when the 99 are left to save the one. Why? Because then instead of 99 saved and one lost, all 100 are saved!

Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay


1 from “When Heaven Weeps: Newly Repackaged Novel from The Martyr’s Song Series (The Heaven Trilogy Book 2)” by Ted Dekker

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