Luke 15:1-7 (NIV)
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “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.
The context of this parable…
We start this parable with Jesus hanging out with a bunch of sinners. The Pharisees were appalled at the sight of this. They were into keeping the law to a tee. Society thought of themselves as good people. They were extremely religious. They were excited about their faith. But then they started looking down at others. Especially those considered earthy or people of the land. Unlike them who considered themselves pure.
But Jesus cared about the sinners deeply. He cared about the Pharisees too, but he wanted to convey through this parable the importance of the lost. “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. (Verses 4-7)
I remember as a child getting lost. It was the most terrifying feeling. My Uncle Buck took me to the South Carolina State Fair when I was six years old. I’d been begging him for cotton candy. He finally relented. As we stood at the cotton candy counter, I couldn’t keep my mouth from watering. When he handed me the delicious treat, I dug into it stuffing each heavenly piece I pulled away from the paper cone into my mouth. As I ate, we walked around looking at the sights. Uncle Buck didn’t notice that he had gone in one direction and I, engulfed in cotton candy, had gone another.
When I took a breather from eating, I took the hand of a stranger standing next to me thinking it was Uncle Buck. I looked up and horror struck as I realized I was holding the hand of a stranger. I began crying loudly. The stranger, thankfully a kind man, was just as stunned when I took his hand. By this time Uncle Buck had already noticed my absence and was running all over the fairgrounds shouting my name. When I heard Uncle Buck’s voice, I told the stranger through my sobbing it was my uncle. We went toward the sound of Uncle Buck’s voice and when we saw one another we hugged each other so tightly it’s a wonder we didn’t break our ribs.
A lot of times we don’t look at ourselves as being lost. Life goes on each day and one day we look around at ourselves and have no idea where we are and how we got there. How we became lost. My daddy experienced that feeling of not knowing how he got to the place where he once loved the church but found one day he no longer did. He didn’t want to go to church or participate in anything church-related. He became lost. Years later he finally admitted that he’d felt betrayed by the church and that made him no longer interested in being a part of it. Unlike the shepherd, no one from the church ever came in search of their lost sheep.
My mother and I both prayed many hours, days, and years that Daddy would reconsider going to church. He never did. The good news, however, is that during the last year of his life, my mother said he finally came to terms with the betrayal he felt and told her he’d talked to the Lord and was at peace with his life. The lost sheep that God went in search of and found.
In this parable, Jesus talks about the importance of going after those who are lost. God pursues us. Just like He pursued my daddy. He won’t let you go off by yourself untethered. God is always searching for you to have a relationship with you. God’s concern is for the lost. He goes into action. It breaks His heart when He sees the lost wandering with no purpose. When we’re lost, broken, or hopeless it gets God’s attention. He never gives up on that one lost sheep. This is good news.
What are some of the ways we find ourselves lost today? Do you sometimes get too busy for God? Beware it doesn’t turn into a cycle that turns into a habit that turns into an addiction. Jesus paints this picture of God and how excited God gets when that one lost becomes found. It’s exciting to find the lost and bring them back into the fold. For Christians, it’s our job to facilitate a reunion with God and the lost.
How do we or should we respond to those who are lost? Do we seek them out? Rescue them? Welcome them? Or do we simply leave them in the lost and found?
And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!