“To Seek & Save”

Luke 15:1-10

{Prayer}

            I want you to think of your favorite movie. I want to you to think of that movie you have seen countless times, that movie where you know exactly what is going to happen next, that movie where you can even say the actor’s or actress’ line before they do. Got it in your head?

            Now why is it that that is your favorite movie or favorite movies if you have more than one? I’d venture to say that you keep going back to that movie because you know that the movie always delivers. Your favorite line is always there, the result of a certain scene always happens, and the movie ends the same way each time.

            The parables of Jesus, especially the two which we have in our Gospel reading this morning of the shepherd with a lost sheep and the woman with the lost coin are much like you returning to your favorite movie. We’ve read them or have heard them different times in our life and because of that, we know what is going to happen next. The story always delivers and always ends with the sheep and coin being found and this big celebration that the lost has been found.

            I could have scoured through my different commentaries, I could have searched the internet trying to find that one thing which is different, which we maybe haven’t heard before … but the thing is there is this sense of comfort, this sense of reassurance which can be found in knowing what’s going to happen next, that things are staying the same. There is this sense of peace which comes with knowing that things have not changed and that God is still doing what He has always done. In the case of Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ mission is simple. His mission is “to seek and save the lost” (19:10).

            So when we come to the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, we find ourselves near to the heart of Jesus’ mission. While continuing to care for those who are His, God seeks out the lost. It doesn’t matter who it is, if it is you or me or if it’s your neighbor.

            When we tell someone about our favorite spot of a movie, unless they have seen it before, we have to tell them what’s going on. Well the same is true when we at Scripture, we need to look at the context of where our passage is found, we need to look at what’s going on. In the case of these parables, we need to look at who Jesus is talking to if we really want to understand why he is telling this string of parables. Luke tells us, “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’” (15:1-2). We’ve got two groups right? Tax collectors and sinners over here with Jesus. We have the Pharisees and the teachers of the law over there. Who is Jesus talking to?  Yeah, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. And why? Because they’re the ones who are objecting to Jesus’s mission of seeking and saving the lost.

            Behind Jesus telling these parables may be our reading from Ezekiel 34. Right before our Old Testament reading, Ezekiel is telling the shepherds of God’s people, the Pharisee like people of Ezekiel’s day, that even though they are not out seeking and saving the lost but are rather plundering and abusing the people, He, the LORD will replace them and be the shepherd of His people. He will seek out and find His lost sheep. And now we see God doing this in the very tangible way in the person of Jesus.

            In the parables we have this morning from Luke’s gospel, Jesus is the one who is really doing the action. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus is the shepherd, the one who will leave the ninety-nine sheep in the open country and will go to search and find the one who is lost. Jesus isn’t satisfied with having the majority, He isn’t good with having almost all the sheep saved, no, He wants all the sheep, He wants each and every sheep out there to be saved. Paul relays Jesus’ mission to his protégée Timothy, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy. 2:3-4).        Likewise, in the parable of the lost coin, Jesus is the poor woman who spares no cost in order to find her lost coin. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, she doesn’t care if she burns up the last of her oil or throws off the rhythm of her day, to her, that one coin is worth every little bit of who she is and what she has. It’s worth it because in this parable, that lost coin is a sinner who was lost but now has been found and has been saved.

            Remember what Jesus’ mission is? He has come “to seek and save the lost.” When what was lost has been found, Jesus says the shepherd gathers up all of his friends and neighbors and rejoices. Jesus says that the woman does the same thing when she finds her coin, she calls up her friends and neighbor and they rejoice, they celebrate. At the end of each of these parables, Jesus says, “I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven, there will be rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7, 10).

            This mission is so near and dear to Jesus’ heart and is so much of who He is that He doesn’t just tell parables about it … He lives them out. To seek and save the lost comes a price. It means leaving the ninety-nine out in the open pasture to possibly be attacked by wolves. It means losing everything you have to possibly get nothing back. To seek and save the lost comes with a price, a price which Jesus is willing to pay. Isaiah, in his suffering servant song about Jesus says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him {to crush Jesus}; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand {in Jesus’ hand}. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, {Jesus}, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11).

            The Good Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus, goes innocently before the wolves, before the Pharisees who oppose His mission to seek and save the lost, in order to do just that, to seek and save the lost, the sinner, people like you and me and everyone else outside of these walls. And Isaiah says Jesus will prosper, and He does as He rises from that grave to give all who belong to Him the eternal joys of living in the perfection of the new heavens and the new earth yet to come. Upon saving you, there is much rejoicing in heaven and in the presence of the angels of God.

            I want you to notice in these parables, the one searching knows exactly what it is he or she is searching for. The shepherd is seeking sheep. The woman seeks a coin. In other words, the one who is searching knows precisely who or what is lost. Jesus knows His own. Jesus says in John 10, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (10:14). As the shepherd goes out to look for sheep, he doesn’t come back with a cow. Nor does the woman who looks for a coin come back with a pearl. No, the one who is searching knows who is lost.

             Jesus knows who is lost and He uses you and me to reach out to them. Jesus will be and is working in our feeble misguided efforts to reach out to the world. He governs our words and our deeds, no matter how awkward they might seem at times. Since He knows those who are lost, He can name them and claim them in ways which we will never fully be able to imagine.

            Like your favorite movie, we know how this story ends and there is great comfort to be found in that. Jesus will come back again and He will raise and restore our bodies and bring all to Him who believe in Him. Trusting in His deep, divine, and concrete love, trusting in that ability to speak the Word of God which takes root in the heart and send shoots through the soul gives you and me the courage to go out into our chaotic and crazy world. God has promised that His Word will not return to Him empty but will do what He has purposed it to do. Like how your favorite movie delivers, God and His Word will deliver through you as Jesus leads us to seek and save the lost. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.

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