This is the season of Advent, anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Many Christmas sermons focus on the WHO of the Christmas story and the wonderful lessons of Joseph, Mary, Shepherds, The Wise Men, Baby Jesus and the other inspiring characters of the Christmas story. Other sermons emphasize the WHEN, the coming of Jesus foretold through the prophets, the times in which he was born. The HOW of Christmas, the virgin birth, the flight to Egypt, the search of Herod, the worship of the Magi. WHERE involves Bethlehem, Egypt, Jerusalem, Israel, Egypt…
This Advent season, a simple reflection of WHY Jesus came. The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is more than a heartwarming story of a young couple that traveled to Bethlehem and gave birth to Jesus in a stable and was greeted by ordinary folks from near and royalty from far. WHY Jesus came is the bottom line truth the world needs to hear. Not Who was at the stable, not When it took place, not the details of How it happened, those are all wonderful elements of the Christmas season, but if we stop there then we have missed the point.
The Son of Man came to Seek and Save the Lost.
Who are the lost? People who have never accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Yes. But I find it helpful to expand what LOST means.
Sometimes people are lost and they don’t know it. In my human nature, these are often the people that are hardest to reach for Christ. Of course, the lesson of Christ is to never give up on anyone. Jesus came to seek the lost. Searching for even those who don’t know they are lost. Like the car full of Bianca’s friends that went right instead of left and for 100 miles didn’t realize they were going in the complete opposite direction. How many road signs did they pass in their journey? How many “east” signs instead of “west” signs. How many people in our old world have lives that are spinning out of control, people making crazy decisions, trying to find purpose in dead end decisions that go nowhere. Sometimes people are lost and don’t know it. Until they start to figure it out, until they start asking questions, until they admit they are on the right track, we must be patient, love them, pray for them, listen for questions, be prepared to talk when they are ready to listen….
I take great comfort to know Jesus Christ is seeking those that are totally lost that don’t even know it. I am glad he calls them lost rather than the damned because I believe with all my heart that as long as there is breath there is hope for all people. I may not know what to do with people who are lost and don’t even know it, but Jesus is seeking them, Jesus is patiently waiting, Jesus is being gracious, the message of salvation is powerful. This is why Jesus came to seek the lost, even those that don’t know they are lost. Only Jesus Christ knows the human heart.
Other people are lost and they do know it. I love the insight of what it means to be lost in comments from William Barclay: “…we must always be careful in how we take the meaning of this word lost. In the New Testament it does not mean damned or doomed. It simply means in the wrong place. A thing is lost when it has got out of its own place into the wrong place: and when we find such a thing we return it to the place it ought to occupy. A man is lost when he has wandered away from God; and he is found when once again he has taken his rightful place as an obedient child in the household and the family of his Father.”
Luke 15 is one of those awesome chapters of the Bible that even has it’s own nickname: “The Lost and Found Chapter.” In this chapter Jesus tells story after story of that which is lost but then is found: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost Son. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, this is why God sent His one and only Son: to find that which is out of place and put back to where it belongs. In my reading of the Bible, there are those lost in eternity that do not enter everlasting life with Jesus Christ in heaven, but I take great comfort in knowing that the offer of eternal life is open to all. Jesus Christ died for the sins of all people. Jesus came for all that are lost, all that are straying, all that are in the wrong place. Some are never found because they refuse….
I was a mere six years old when on a family trip I wanted to be the first to leave on the hiking trail. In my haste I took the right fork instead of the left fork. Ten minutes into the hike, with nobody catching up to me, I knew something was terribly wrong but I had no idea what…I kept going forward at a snails pace waiting and waiting for somebody to catch up with me. I can still create in my heart, 50 year later, the feeling of the shadows, the lions and tigers and bears that I was sure were watching me. I was lost and completely helpless. There are an incredible number of people in our complicated world that are very lost, lost spiritually, lost emotionally, but they have no idea what to do about. In today’s world, just my opinion, I am convinced there are far more people who are lost and they know it, they just don’t know what to do about it. They are confused, nervous, frustrated, angry, helpless, lost… they know something is missing but they don’t know what…. This may even describe YOU…
Luke 19:10, our verse for today, is the caption of the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector of small stature that is so desperate to catch a glimpse of Jesus that when Jesus passes through his town and he cannot see Jesus because of the crowds, he climbs a tree. As Jesus passes by, he looks up and calls out to Zacchaeus. The lesson of the story is that while Zacchaeus is looking for Jesus, it turns out it is the Lord that is the one searching for Him. In our lostness, we are searching for peace, we are searching for answers, we are desperate for wholeness/purpose, yet the answer is far more simple: let the Lord find us. The Lord Jesus Christ came to find us and give us the gift of salvation. What do you do about the helpless feeling? /sense of being lost? The fear, frustration, depression ~~~~ let the Lord Jesus Christ find you.
When I was lost in the woods at age 6, so afraid and so alone, I did not realize till later that my father discovered early on that I was not in the place where I belonged. Not until later did I find out how he picked up his pace, began asking others, went up and down the trail, searched high and low. All I had to do was wait to be found.
Why did Jesus come? To seek and save the lost. He is even now seeking those who are lost…. To those in the world who are lost, let him find you. You don’t have to have all the answers. Recognize you are lost, helpless to save yourself, and let Him find you. To be saved is to become the person God wants you to be, to be loved by Christ, to be forgiven. Like the lost coin that is found and put back where it belongs, so let Jesus Christ find you and restore you, bringing you back to himself. Salvation is a gift for all who allow themselves to be found! Amen.