"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
I will freely admit to not understanding much of the symbolism in the scriptures and of applying my own meanings to them which may or may not be quite what the Savior meant by them, and I always struggled with this scripture. Why would one wandering sheep mean so much to the Shepherd? Why would it's recovery be the cause for more joy than ninety-nine sheep who are obedient and stay with the flock? It always bothered me a bit to think that if I was a faithful "sheep" that I wouldn't matter as much to Jesus.
Then it hit me. The ninety and nine sheep are likely doing what sheep do- contentedly eating and milling about. They have no need to wander further afield because they trust in the security of their shepherd. I think we all seek for that level of peace in knowing that our needs are taken care of and that we have a shepherd who is looking out for us. But...I think the sheep have become complacent. Sure, they follow the shepherd obediently- but is it more automatically than loyally? Do they draw near to their shepherd just to be close to Him, or do they go about doing their own thing, only occasionally checking to make sure someone is still keeping them safe?
The wandering one, on the other hand, has left the safety and security of the flock. It has likely experienced danger, anxiety, and loneliness. When this lost sheep catches sight of the shepherd, won't it's heart leap with joy to see it's caretaker? What can compare to the sense of love it will feel as it is laid upon the shoulders of its savior and brought back to the fellowship and bounty of its flock? I can imagine this "sheep" being so much more devoted to the shepherd- not staying close out of duty or for safety alone, but because this sheep loves the shepherd. Only one who has wandered and then been rescued by the great Shepherd can understand the depth of gratitude and affection that this engenders.
This doesn't make the one wandering sheep any more valuable to the shepherd. Without the obedient sheep there would be no flock for the one to come back to. Without the ninety and nine there would be no good example for the young lambs to follow. But hopefully that "one" will always remember how it felt to be lost, and how much it owes to the Shepherd who found it and brought it home again. And maybe, just maybe, it will teach its own lambs a deeper kind of devotion to the Shepherd. That kind of faithfulness makes it worth a whole lot of rejoicing.