in search of the lost
Her name was Rae. As a young teenager, she ran away from home. Her heart-sick parents searched for her, and, then, contacted the police. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, but still no information on Rae. Her parents feared the worst.
Rae had run away to join a Goth gang. She lived on the streets or wherever she could find a place to stay. She used drugs and alcohol and did whatever she had to do to support her addiction. She threw herself into all that the darker side of this world had to offer.
Then, one day, her parents received a phone call. Rae had been bound. She had been arrested and was in prison. Her parents were thrilled. At least she was alive. But when her dad first saw her, he couldn’t believe his eyes. His beautiful daughter hardly looked liked herself. She was gaunt and sickly. Alcohol and drugs had taken a terrible toll on her.
All of this was about to change. While in prison, a stranger who was a Christian visited her and gave her a pamphlet. The pamphlet shared the good news of God’s love and His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. After reading the pamphlet, Rae said a short prayer: “God, if there is a better way to live, please show me because I sure don’t know what it is.”
Rae’s prayer may have been short, but God heard it. As Rae turned to God, her life began to change. She got out of jail and found a church. In her church, she found hope and new meaning to life. She repented and accepted Jesus as her Savior. Soon, she began working at Christian youth camps for troubled teenagers and shared her story to help others. Rae’s life was touched by God’s grace. She was lost, but now she was found. She was blind, but now she could see.
Jesus and the Lost
If Rae had lived in Jesus’ day, what would Jesus have thought about her? Would He have cared about such a rebellious teenage girl? Would He have tried to help her? Consider what Jesus said in a synagogue in Nazareth:
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Then, He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:16-21)
This scripture is important because it reveals the very purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor, comfort the brokenhearted, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, heal the sick, and raise the dead. But it didn’t end there! Jesus came into the world to save lost sinners, and, interestingly, the lost often found Him.
One day, a group of tax collectors and “sinners” came to Jesus and gathered around Him. The Pharisees couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Why would Jesus, if he was a teacher of God, welcome sinners and eat with them? They certainly wouldn’t. After hearing them fuss and complain, Jesus told this parable:
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)
The point of Jesus’ parable is clear. The lost sinner, like a lost sheep, is important to God. The Good Shepherd leaves the congregation of the righteous to search for a lost sheep. When He finds it, the Good Shepherd carries his sheep home, full of joy and rejoicing. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
The Pharisees never understood Jesus. They would never eat with tax collectors or sinners, and they criticized Jesus for doing so. Jesus’ response to their criticism was simple: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick... For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matt 9:10-13)
Jesus and Zacchaeus
One day, Jesus made his way through Jericho. A man named Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was very wealthy, climbed a sycamore tree to see Him. When Jesus reached the tree, He said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus climbed down the tree and welcomed Jesus to his home. When the people saw this, they began to murmur. They could not believe that Jesus would eat in the home of such a sinner.
Zacchaeus apparently knew more about Jesus than the scriptures tell us. Somewhere along the way, he must have heard of Jesus’ teachings, miracles, and deeds. Perhaps, he witnessed them. We do not know. The only thing we know for sure is that Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life. Zacchaeus, who was a sinner, now promised to give half of all he owned to the poor; and if he cheated anyone, he offered to pay back four-times the amount. Jesus responded, “Today, salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (Luke 19: 9-10)
What About Us?
Sometimes, we forget that we were once lost sinners. We may not have lived on the streets or behind prison bars, but we were prisoners of sin without hope in this world. Then, when touched by the loving kindness of God, we repented and accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Our sins were washed away, and our lives were changed forever.
As churches, we can become so busy with our programs, projects, and activities that we forget our true mission – “to seek and save what was lost”. A church that forgets its mission to call sinners to repentance is doomed to spiritual impotence. Remember, if Jesus is actively searching for lost sinners, so should we. We must clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick, and find the lost. It’s not someone else’s job, it’s our job.
Paul never lost sight of his mission. Notice what he said in I Corinthians 9: 19-22:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Cor 9:19-22)
What about us? Are we ready to reach out to the lost and destitute of this world? Are we willing to become all things to all men that we might save some? For those who belong to Jesus Christ, this is not an option; it’s a calling. We must “seek and save that which is lost”.