Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The "Lost and Found" Chapter in the Bible

Image result for seeking what was lost
Luke 15:1-5 "Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing."

In every church there is what is called a "lost and found" room. This designated room, shelf or place in an office is where one can find lost Bibles, hats, shirts or toys. Amazingly, as a pastor, I have never once had a lost phone put in a lost and found area (people keep track of their phones, I suppose). When a given item is found by its owner or the one looking for it, there is an expression of relief; in other cases, joy or jubilation. I myself had recently lost a set of important keys. I searched and searched for two days. When the keys were found, I told two other people (it was a cause for celebration)! Lost and found rooms or finding valuable items that we thought would never be retrieved entail life's little victories. 

There is one sort of seeking and retrieval that can never compare: namely, when God convinces a sinner to forsake their dependence on themselves and their sins and to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Luke 15 represents what one could call the "Lost and Found" chapter in the Bible. When we say "Lost and Found" we are referring to how this theme threads its way through three parables told by Jesus concerning:

a).  the finding of a lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) 

b). a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) 

c).  a lost son (Luke 15:11-32). 

We want to consider the broad details of Luke 15 to grasp this theme of "lost and found".

1. What is lost and found is very valuable 

Jesus begins with a sheep. A valuable animal for sure. However, in the second parable, we find the losing of a coin which represents a larger proportion of the woman's wealth in the parable. The third parable presents the most valuable thing that, when lost, and then found, cannot be compared in terms of value: namely a human soul. Jesus purposefully strings three parables together like a string of pearls to drive home the point of the value of the lost item or person to the one desiring to be reconnected to it. So, we find then that the value of a lost soul being reconciled to God is extremely valuable. Now notice the second trait...

2. Whatever is lost and found was desperately lost

Once again, we find Jesus presenting this theme of "what was lost is now found". We saw the emphasis of value, now we consider a second trait of the lost items or people in these parables: namely their desperation. As Jesus shared these parables, everyone would had identified with them. Who hasn't lost an animal (or in their case, a sheep). Who hasn't lost money? Who hasn't had a wayward child? Each situation presents an increasing level of desperation, a decreasing likelihood of the object being reconciled to the person and a greater amount of effort expended to find it. Finding a lost sheep requires the shepherd leaving the 99 to search hills and valleys for that one lost sheep. The parable of the lost coin entails a woman searching in the cracks of her stone floor. The cracks are thin and the house would be dimly lit. To be able to find such a coin in such conditions would, amazingly, be even harder. What about a lost son coming back to his father. The situation is so desperate, the assumption is that the runaway son is dead. 

The level of desperation for a lost soul is more profound than anyone can imagine. The decreasing proportion of the lost item to the overall remaining items or people (one sheep in one hundred, one coin in ten and one of two sons, or we could even say, both sons) only highlights this second point of the value of the lost item. Only God can save lost souls. 

3. What is lost and found is cause for joy when found 

So far, we have seen Jesus teach about the value of the lost and the desperate situation of the lost. Jesus then, in all three parables, gets to the point when their is joy over finding the lost item or person. Virtually the same phrase is said once the item is returned or found. The shepherd says when finding the lost sheep in Luke 15:6 "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ The woman exclaims after finding her lost coin in Luke 15:9 "When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!" Then of course, the greatest exclamation of joy of finding what was formerly lost is the Father's words concerning his formerly wayward son in Luke 15:24 "for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate." As a matter of fact, the joy of the Father is so emphasized that we find him proclaiming his joy once more at the close of the third parable in Luke 15:32 "But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

4. The Father rejoices when what was lost is found

So we have seen how much the lost are valued, in a desperate condition and the joy experienced when the lost are reconciled or found. We find the Father (God the Father) to be present in incognito throughout these parables and increasingly identified in all three. He is likened to a shepherd in the first parable and alluded to as the source of rejoicing in Heaven whenever one lost sinner is found. In the second parable, we find Him likened to the owner of a house and then (indirectly) alluded to as rejoicing in the presence of His angels (see Luke 15:10). The third parable features a father figure showing lavish grace. We expect by the nature of the progression to have the heavenly Father directly identified. 

Interestingly Jesus concludes the parable with the tenderness of the father figure toward his son and his conversation with his older one pointing the way to the heart of the Heavenly Father. The actions and words of the father-figure so capture the character of the Heavenly Father (which no man has seen, nor can see), that Jesus' parables together capture the efforts of the Father in seeking the lost. 

Closing thoughts
Today we have explored Luke 15 by considering the theme of "lost and found". We noted how Jesus ultimately points to how God the Father is seeking after the lost. We noted the following four observations that tie together the three parables found in Luke 15...

1. What is lost and found is very valuable

2. Whatever is lost and found was desperately lost

3. What is lost and found is cause for joy when found

4. The Father rejoices when what was lost is found

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