Scripture Text: Luke 15:1-10
Have you found what is lost? I have often thought that I lost things such as keys and other valuables, only to find out that they were not really lost, just misplaced. I am sure many of you have lost or misplaced something at one time or another. Have you ever lost something important or valuable? If so, how long did you search for it? And if you found it, how did you react? I assume you rejoiced. You were probably relieved to find it. You might have kept it safe and secure not wanting to ever lose it again. In the passage today, Jesus told two parables to illustrate the importance of finding lost things. In both parables Jesus asked this question, “What person among you, when you lose something will not seek that which is lost?” One parable was about a lost sheep and the other was about a lost coin. Most of us can relate to either one. Farmers can really understand losing a farm animal, but you may have a pet that you love so much you would hate to lose. All of us can relate to losing money, especially if it is a large amount.
The passage today is about losing things, although the real thing of which it speaks is not what we may typically consider “lost.” As Christians, we use terms that those outside the Church may not understand. For instance, we call those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as “lost.” Someone outside the Church who has not believed in Jesus may not know what that means. They may ask, “How am I lost? I know exactly where I am.” But do they? Without Jesus, we may think we know where we are or what our situation is, but in reality we do not. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He shows us our situation and our need for Him and how we can be found. We are lost without Jesus, but we are found when we place our trust in Him.
In Luke chapter fifteen, Jesus spoke three parables primarily to the Pharisees and scribes to illustrate God’s love for people who do not know His Son. The lost sheep (vss. 4-7), the lost coin (vss. 8-10), and the prodigal son (vss. 11-32) all refer to people who were once lost but who are now found by God. These parables are about God seeking those who are lost. We are looking at the first two parables about the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin today, and will take a look at the third one, the Prodigal Son, next week. From the first two parables, we see at least three truths:
- God Seeks Who We Consider Undesirable
- God Values Even the One Who is Lost
- God Rejoices, and Wants Us to Rejoice, When the Lost Are Found
God Seeks Who We Consider Undesirable
At the end of Luke chapter fourteen, Jesus taught a great crowd about the cost of discipleship, comparing His disciples to salt. Jesus ended the chapter saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Interestingly enough, at the beginning of chapter fifteen, Luke wrote that some tax collectors and sinners gathered around Him “to hear him.” Jesus had welcomed those who would hear Him, and it was these sinners and tax collectors who gathered around Him to hear Him. Now, that may not seem all that remarkable, but apparently it was, because some took notice of this.
The sinners and tax collectors gathered around Jesus to hear Him but why did the Pharisees and scribes gather around Him? It does not seem that they had gathered around Jesus for the same reason. It appears they were interested in criticizing Jesus, complaining about these undesirable people associating with Jesus. Jesus told these parables in response to their complaint about Him hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. For some of us, that may seem ridiculous, after all who did Jesus come to save in the first place? We believe that He came to save sinners. But the Pharisees’ response may not be too hard to understand. We do the same thing. What would many of you think if you saw a pastor or a deacon of the church hanging out at the bar or with a bunch of politicians…of the wrong party! Would that raise an eyebrow or a complaint maybe? These Pharisees and scribes were complaining that Jesus was associating with some of the more unsavory and hated people in Jewish society.
Sinners in the New Testament would be people who were immoral or who had jobs that the Jewish scribes considered incompatible with keeping God’s Law. These so-called “sinners” may have chosen a life of unrighteousness, doing things clearly contrary to God’s will, or may have had jobs that made it impossible to be comply with the Jewish customs. Furthermore, a sinner could have simply been a Gentile who was thought to be immoral by many Jews. These sinners were also grouped with social outcasts such as tax collectors, who were hated for their dishonesty and disloyalty. As a rule, the Jewish Rabbis stated that “one must not even associate with an ungodly man.” Other rabbis would not even teach such men. And so, that was the rub. There was a group of sinners and tax collectors who had gathered around Jesus to hear Him and Jesus welcomed them. Not only that, Jesus even had dinner with them. Such fellowship implied welcoming these people into a close personal association, which the Pharisees thought would make a person unclean. So Jesus must have been unclean!
Well, that certainly was not the case. It was not that Jesus was unclean. What we see here is that Jesus desires those who are undesirable. God seeks those who the rest of society wants nothing to do with. That is the heart of the Gospel. No matter what you have done, no matter what your station in life is, or your personal circumstances are, God desires you. God seeks those who are lost, especially those who the rest of the world would not seek. Do you welcome those who are the outcasts of society? Would you welcome them here in the church? In your home? Jesus would!
God Values Even the One Who is Lost
The Jewish rabbis taught that God would welcome one who repented, but these parables teach that God seeks out the sinner. Some consider Jesus’ concern for the lost to be the theme of Luke’s account of the Gospel. We see this in Jesus’ statement in Luke chapter nineteen.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
This concern for the lost is shown even in the number of the lost that is sought. We see in this passage that numbers are not as important to God as finding the one who is lost, unless you believe God is OCD and needs a round number. The second point in this passage is that God values even the one who is lost. The man in the first parable leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the open country to go after the one sheep that was lost. This might seem irresponsible to leave the ninety-nine the shepherd does have to go search for the one that is lost; but this shows the depth of God’s love for even one lost person.
If you think that God does not care for one lost person, then look at the care with which Jesus described the shepherd seeking his lost sheep. The shepherd put the sheep on his shoulders. This expresses the shepherd’s loving care for his lost sheep. Frequently a sheep that became lost was weak and could not keep up with the rest of the flock. Thus the shepherd needed to carry it on his shoulders. God seeks the one who is lost and lovingly carries the one weakened and battered by the cares of this life. Yes, God cares even for the one. He cares even for you. To the Pharisees and scribes at that time, Jesus was saying that these sinners and tax collectors matter to God and He desires to see even them, even one of them, come to Him. The prophet Ezekiel wrote of God’s passion for the lost.
Ezekiel 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…
God Rejoices When the Lost Are Found
The third point is about the joy the accompanies finding what was once lost. Most of us who have lost something know the feeling of relief when we find something valuable that was once lost. All three parables in Luke chapter fifteen are connected by the same theme: the joy of finding the lost. The shepherd rejoices to find his lost sheep. The woman rejoices to find her lost coin. And the father rejoices to find his lost son. These are times to celebrate. The shepherd who found his lost sheep invited his friends and neighbors to join him in rejoicing over the lost sheep being found. Likewise, the woman called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her in finding her lost coin. Furthermore, Jesus explained that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
We should not assume that Jesus was saying that some people do not need to repent, for scripture elsewhere affirms that we all need to repent, we all need forgiveness, and we all need a Savior. The point Jesus was making is that God rejoices when one person repents of sin and comes to Him. This should have cut to the heart of the Pharisees and scribes who were more concerned about complaining about Jesus’ unattractive company. Rather than complaining about the sinners and tax collectors hanging out and eating with Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes should have rejoiced that the lost were entering the Kingdom of God. Rather than worrying about the company they keep, they should be rejoicing that people are coming to Jesus. It was like Jesus said, “The lost are finding forgiveness and sinners are finding salvation. It is time to celebrate and God is rejoicing over this. Why won’t you?”
That is what we should be asking ourselves. Are we rejoicing over the lost being found? Are we rejoicing over people coming to Jesus? Are we rejoicing over sinners coming into the Kingdom of God? Are we? Jesus invites us to rejoice with Him in finding and saving the lost. We should be overwhelmingly joyful to see people turn from their allegiance to sin and faithfully turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. We should be filled with joy when another lost sinner enters the Kingdom of God.
What Does This Mean for the Church?
So, what does this mean for us? Imagine being lost somewhere. You do not know where you are. You have no map and no one to tell you where to go. How would you feel? Probably lost! Now, imagine if there was someone who knew where you were, and knew what you should do to get to where you needed to be, but they kept that information to themselves. What if they did not tell you what you needed to know and you remained lost. How would that be? That is the situation for billions of people in the world who are spiritually lost and do not know Jesus Christ. The thing is, many of them do not know that they are lost and many of us know what they need but are unwilling to tell them. If God cares so much for the lost, as I believe His Word states, should we not care for the lost also? I believe the answer is a resounding “yes”.
The Great Commission of the Church starts with personal evangelism.
The Church can reach the lost with community events such as Vacation Bible School, fun days and festivals and door-to-door outreach, but what are you doing personally to reach the lost for Jesus Christ? How many people have you told about Jesus Christ in the past year? The past month? This week? I encourage the church to have outreach events and want us to do more of them. But we all need to be evangelists, at home, at work, with our family, our friends, our neighbors and even complete strangers. If we wait for scheduled events in which the church as a whole does the outreach, then we are missing a lot of opportunities that God gives us individually each day. Look at some of the personal evangelism that is recorded in scripture:
- Jesus spoke to the woman at the well one on one
- Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch while traveling on the road
- Peter saw Cornelius, the Roman centurion, come to Christ by visiting his home
- Paul and Silas shared the gospel with a Philippian jailer while in prison
- Paul shared the gospel with Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa
No matter who you are or what you are doing, you can and should be a witness for Jesus Christ. The mission of the Church is the make disciples of all nations. We cannot do that unless we are going out there and telling people about Jesus Christ. This is more than inviting people to church. I encourage you to invite people to church and I hope you are doing it. But if that is the extent of your witness, then you are missing a lot opportunities to reach the lost. We need to get serious about reaching the lost for Christ. We need to change our thinking from how can we get people into Good Hope Baptist to how can we reach the lost for the Kingdom of Christ. It is not about this church or that church but about seeking the lost for Jesus Christ.
Have you found what is lost? Maybe a better question is, “Are you looking for what is lost?” Are you seeking what is lost? If not, you should be. You are that person who has the map to help a lost person find his destination. Are you going to share that information or keep it to yourself? Are you going to let your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors continue being lost and without Jesus? The fact of the matter is that we are dealing with life and death situations when we choose to share or not share the good news of Jesus Christ. Life is found in Jesus. Death is found apart from Him. There are people who are perishing and going to Hell without Christ and you have the hope that can save them. Are you going to share it with them!
Jesus Christ is the Savior and you can share that hope with the lost.
What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.