“Do we value lost people the way Jesus does?”
“If Jesus were physically living in Canada today, how would He spend His time, energy and money?”
You cannot study the life of Jesus without being captured by His passionate, loving pursuit of those whom He called “the lost.” Jesus went out of His way, ignored cultural norms, risked being misunderstood, was threatened and eventually unjustly arrested, tortured and crucified. Why? In order to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)!
In the opening verses of Luke 15, Jesus is being criticized for welcoming sinners and eating with them. To defend His actions, Jesus tells three parables about the lost.
In the first parable, a shepherd leaves 99 of his sheep in the open country and pursues the one that has wandered off. He finds it, puts it on his shoulders, and brings it home. He then calls for his friends and neighbours to celebrate with him. Jesus says, “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” (Luke 15:7).
In the second parable, a woman who had 10 silver coins loses one. Finding the lost coin becomes a dominating quest for her. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and seeks diligently until she finds it. Then she, too, calls her friends and neighbours and invites them to rejoice with her because she has found what was lost. “In the same way,” Jesus exclaims, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Parable number three, recorded in Luke 15:11-32, is the most detailed as Jesus zeroes in on the attitudes of the murmuring religious leaders. In this story there is a man with two sons. The youngest comes and asks for his portion of the inheritance that would be rightfully his after his father’s death. It was like saying to the father, “You are dead to me.”
A few days later, the son leaves for a faraway country where he wastes the wealth he had received. When a famine hits the land, he takes a job feeding pigs and becomes so desperately hungry that he begins to eye the pigs’ food. Then he comes to his senses. He decides to return home, acknowledge his sin, and humbly ask to be a servant. So up he gets and starts for home.
“But while he was still a long way off,” Jesus says, the father sees him. (Clearly, the father has been watching.) Filled with compassion, the father runs to his lost son, embraces him, kisses him, and promptly reinstates him as a son by giving him a robe, a ring and sandals. Then the father, like the shepherd and the woman, calls for a celebratory feast! “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
When the older son hears the celebration, he asks a servant what is going on. The servant explains that his brother is back safe and sound and that a celebratory feast is taking place.
In anger, the older brother refuses to join the party. When the father goes out to plead with him to come and celebrate, the jealous, resentful older son points to all of his faithful, hard work through the years. “Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends,” he complains. “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
The father reminds this son, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Jesus is sending a strong message to the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding their arrogant religious attitude. These leaders, like the older brother, failed to appreciate the value of a lost person. Their values were to preserve their authority, maintain control, and exercise judgment. All the while they were hindering the lost from finding kingdom life.
Jesus would have none of it then, and He will have none of it today. Those who are away from their heavenly Father must be found. Searching for them becomes the highest priority. As a Friend of sinners, Jesus was prepared to go anywhere to seek and save the lost. The desired result was seen in all three parables: the lost were found and a party took place, both on earth and in heaven.
Clearly, if Jesus were physically living in our world today, He would spend his time, energy and resources pursuing the lost. Do we value lost people the way Jesus does? We give lip service to the idea of helping lost people come to a living faith in Jesus. But do we intentionally pursue the lost with our prayers, in our relationships, and by our actions—the way Jesus’ parables describe? The reality is, many of us have never experienced the joy of pursuing a lost person and seeing them come to new life in Jesus. Are there people in our lives who are so precious to us that we are prepared to go out of our way, ignore cultural norms, and face criticism in order to lead them home to Jesus?
Let’s be a new wave of Jesus followers in Canada, doing what Jesus would do—and let the party begin!
Heavenly Father, we picture You looking out across Canada and longing for lost sons and daughters to come home. Lead us by Your Spirit to those whom Jesus is seeking to save. Restore our joy as we celebrate our lost family members and neighbours being found. For Your glory and joy we pray. Amen.
This editorial appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.