A few years ago, I was shopping in Pottery Barn with my young son who was about three years old. He, of course, didn’t really want to be there because we had gone into too many “shopping stores”. He was tired and I was distracted by beautiful comforters, lamps, sheets and towels. My son was standing right beside me…until he wasn’t.
I walked down one aisle and then another, but he was no where to be found. The store manager saw the distress on my face and started to search with me. The search was only about four to five minutes, but it felt like hours. As I yelled his name, my heart was beating out of my chest. My palms were sweaty and tears began to well up in my eyes. The doors to the store were open because it was a nice day…did he wander outside? Or worse, did someone take him? Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something beside a sofa. There he was, curled up in a little ball. He’d walked into the kids section to look at a toy and gotten completely lost. And, when he realized he was lost, he hid.
I’ve thought about this story so many times over the past couple of weeks as I’ve studied the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. How quickly one becomes lost. The reaction to that realization. And, the desperate search that begins for the lost one.
We will discuss the first two parables today, but before we get started I think it’s important to revisit some important details from my last blog post, The Lost Ones – Part 1. Remember that Jesus is teaching in a crowd of tax collectors and “sinners” – those who are openly lost. But, also present are the Pharisees, the teachers of the law and the religious leaders, there only to criticize and condemn him, but in so many ways, lost in their religion and missing the heart of God.
Jesus brings the crowd in with a parable about a shepherd looking for a lost sheep and then a woman looking for a lost coin.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nite righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 3-10).
In these passages, Jesus comparing the lost ones to sheep who wanders away from the herd and a coin that has been lost maybe dropped or misplaced. We could draw so many parallels with society then and now, but what I want you to realize is that both, the sheep and the coin, are valuable.
You see, “For something to be lost, it must be valued” (Kevin Queen).
And, please don’t miss this – you are valuable to God.
In the first parable, the shepherd has one hundred sheep and loses one. In the second parable, the woman loses one silver coin out of ten. At first glance, you may be thinking losing one sheep or one coin is not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world, right? But, in looking specifically at the coin, history tells us that this one coin is probably part of the woman’s dowry and was worn as an ornament. Worth approximately a days wage, but more importantly, it was kind-of a public display of her worth, maybe?
Regardless, to the shepherd and the woman, these things had value. And, what Jesus is trying to tell us is that there are no insignificant people to God. Everyone is worth it…everyone. Contrary to our society and what the Pharisees believed, there are no “classes” of people, no rejects, and no misfits in the Kingdom of God. No one who won’t be searched out if they wander like the sheep or if they are dropped or misplaced like the coin.
The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the countryside and goes, maybe to the mountains or the wilderness, after the sheep. The woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully. And, both search until found. Therefore, the search for you and me is desperate, delicate and never ending.
You see, what happens so often when we find we are lost, is that we do exactly the same thing as my young son…we hide. We hide in our shame. We hide in our addictions. We hide in ourselves. We hide in our religion. We hide in the places we feel the most lost. And, what Jesus wants you to know is that there is an all out search party desperate to find you. One that will leave the ninety-nine and bring out the dogs, so to speak. But, at the same time, the search is careful and delicate like the woman looking for the coin. Because, our God, yours and mine, understands that the places we are hiding are wrapped in hurt, loss and disappointment. The dark places that are raw and tender in need of a gentle savior. So, just as much as our God is strong and mighty to go to the mountains, he is also just as delicate with your hurting heart.
And, although it’s not really mentioned in the story, I believe the Father knows exactly where you are. See, these stories illustrate the extent of the Father’s love and just how far he will go to find you, but let’s be clear, the Father didn’t lose you. We become lost…we drift…we leave…we wander…and we hide…and, maybe, we have our reasons. But, the Father wants you back. He wants to heal you, restore you and love you back to life. So much so that this same Jesus who ate with the tax collectors and sinners hung on a cross, was crucified and died. Why? Because the heart of God is the lost. He, God, gave his only son so that the lost, you and me, could be found.
And, when the sheep was found, the shepherd rejoiced, threw the lost one over his shoulders and carried him back home. See, the shepherd wasn’t mad at the sheep and God isn’t mad at you.
Please hear this: God is not mad at you.
Just as I wasn’t mad at my son who wandered in Pottery Barn. When I found my son, I didn’t yell at him, I hugged him like never before. The shepherd and the women rejoiced over the lost one and I’ll be honest, I had myself a little party with my son right there in Pottery Barn. Why? Because, my son, the thing of most value to me, was found.
And, my friends, God feels the same way about you. You are of the highest value to God. The Heavenly Father is on a search and rescue mission for you. Leaving the ninety-nine, carefully sweeping the house, desperately and delicately searching until each one is found. The Father’s heart longs to find you, heal you, restore you, carry you home, invite the neighbors, rejoice and throw a party. For what was lost is now found!