Seeking the lost

I think there is confusion as to what it means to be lost.  There was an acquaintance of ours, that essentially made the comment, “I have done too much to be forgiven”.  It was both a statement about their actions to others, and how they felt about church and God. And, unfortunately, there wasn’t much that could be said to change their mind about it.  Friends and family could not impress that forgiveness from God is a very powerful thing.

Ultimately, the decisions that were made, and the path that this individual chose to take, led to them losing their life.

It was very hard.  To feel that you failed, in convincing a troubled soul that there is a place of comfort.

This led me to ponder on what it means to be lost. 

Luk 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."


This response is given to those who are complaining that Jesus went to the house of a sinner to dine.  That sinner was Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector.  We are not told what was said to him.  We really don’t even know if Jesus talked to him about his sin.  All we read is that he made restitution with those he had wronged.

"Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."

Luk 19:9  And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.


But this is not the first time that it has been mentioned that the lost will be sought after.


Eze 34:1  The word of the LORD came to me:

Eze 34:2  "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Eze 34:3  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

Eze 34:4  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.


The Lord is being very blunt in stating that those who have been given a position of authority over others, have been lax in their duties.  He is taking to task those who have been in power over the flock of Israel because they have become fat off of the abundance of the blessings of God.  They have not tended to the sheep, and many have been scattered to fall prey to the predators in the area.


Eze 34:5  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.

Eze 34:6  My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.


Here we see that it has been established that all of his flock are of value.  But through the carelessness of the shepherds, the flock has been scattered.  They are not lost in the sense that they have rejected the message and are condemned.  They are lost because they fell away and do not know where to go next.


Eze 34:7  "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

Eze 34:8  As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep,

Eze 34:9  therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

Eze 34:10  Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

Eze 34:11  "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.


Eze 34:15  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.

Eze 34:16  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.


So God will be the seeker.  He will seek out all that are his, and will be a shepherd for them.  To care and nurture them.  But he also asks for help in this task.


In Mark, Jesus tells his disciples to

Mar 16:15  And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Mar 16:16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

He is telling them this after he has been resurrected from the grave.  For context, we know that he appeared to the two men walking on the road to Emmaus.  After it is revealed to them that it is Jesus, they run back to Jerusalem to tell the others.  The others do not believe them until Jesus appears in their midst.


 Mar 16:20  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.


But, how to they know what to do.  I believe that this is addressed in Luke, chapter 15.


Here, we have three stories seeking lost items.


I will address them slightly out of order and start with verse 8

Luk 15:8  "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?

Luk 15:9  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'

Luk 15:10  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."


Now, it is popular opinion that this coin would be a Denarius, which would equate to about 1 days wage.  When it is noticed that it is lost, the owner will carefully set the conditions to maximize her ability to find it.  And because she knows that the coin will not find her, she must work quickly to prevent time from causing the coin to become more and more hidden.

 The second parable relates the story of a shepherd.

Luk 15:4  "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

Luk 15:5  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

Luk 15:6  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'

Luk 15:7  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.


Once again, the owner acts quickly to recover the lost item.  In this case, the sheep is aware that it is lost, but the shepherd must not count on the sheep’s ability to find its’ way back.  It may try to go home, but without guidance, it will just meander around and possibly get in greater harm.

The third parable is probably the most familiar one.

Luk 15:11  And he said, "There was a man who had two sons.

Luk 15:12  And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them.

Luk 15:13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

Luk 15:14  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

Luk 15:15  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

Luk 15:16  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

Luk 15:17  "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!

Luk 15:18  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.

Luk 15:19  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."'

Luk 15:20  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luk 15:21  And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'


Unlike the other two lost things, the son has a moment where he comes to his senses and says, why am I suffering in some foreign land?  My father is a just boss, if I am to have to earn my way, I will go and work for him instead.  But when he gets home, he finds that his father is still his father.

Luk 15:22  But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Luk 15:23  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

Luk 15:24  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.


I believe that we are being shown that there are different stages of understanding.  Not everyone will be in the same stage, but there must be a sort of progression to bring them into this redemption.

There are those who are like the coin.  They are valuable, but they are lost.  They do not know that they are lost.  The sit there and think that all is well for them.  They are waiting for someone to happen along and bring light to their surroundings.  To tell them about their value.  Someone is seeking them, and when they are found, they will be utilized for the worth that they have.

Once they have this new understanding about their situation, they have moved to being a sheep.  They now know they are lost, but once again, they do not know what to do about it.  They are listening for the voice of the shepherd, but they might not hear it.  They may wander around looking, but it can be dangerous, due to those would be take advantage of them. They need for someone to explain what they should be looking for.

They should be looking for the arms of the savior.  Someone who is willing to accept them, warts and all. 

Once this has been explained, they move to being a son.  They know what they must do and where they need to be.  They need to go home.

That home is the understanding that they are a child of God.  A valuable addition to the family, which they have always been a part of.  They are not some stranger off the street looking for a way in, they have always belonged there.

To tie this back into the illustration at the beginning, the son was basically telling his father, I wish you were dead.  I wish that you would die, so that I could have what would rightfully be mine, that you have earned, and would be passed to me as an inheritance.  Those are pretty powerful words.  And yet, the father divides up the estate, and gives what is asked for.  And yet, he still watches every day for his son to return.

If we are to understand that the father in that story is our heavenly father, and we represent the son, then we know that we can always go home.

I feel that it is paramount to impress upon them that the Father is watching for them, each and every day.  And when they take that step home, he will welcome them with open arms, to restore them as the son that they are.  And there will be a feast and celebration, as the son who was dead, is alive again.