We think we get Jesus.
Jesus, who performs miracles of healing. Jesus, who feeds many. Jesus, who teaches. Jesus, who dies one dark Friday and rises again on a Sunday.
But our scripture today drops us right into the center of the Pharisee-Jesus confrontation.
The down-and-out, that is, the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ are crowding around Jesus. They know he’s special–we expect him to welcome those people in, even if they’re not welcomed in by others.
But the thing is, the Pharisees are surprised, bothered, and concerned that Jesus would behave like this! We know that hanging out with the outcasts is what what Jesus does, but the religious leaders of the day? It bothers them.
And that begs the question, why?
The Pharisees think that “good, religious people” wouldn’t hang out with people of ill repute. They think there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ And they think that the ‘them’ are so unnecessary that they literally can be ignored, or worse, discarded like trash.
Jesus hears the Pharisees, and he responds with not just one, but two, parables about things that get lost. And they require us to consider how the ‘finder’ responds upon reacquiring what was lost.
In the first, there are a hundred sheep. Now, I don’t know how much a sheep was actually worth in Jesus’ day, but I know that ninety-nine sheep are economically more valuable than one sheep. It’s simple math, right? Ninety-nine > one. Easy decision, right?
But in this scenario, it’s not about math, it’s about the search. In Jesus’ words, the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine who are already his in “open country,” or unprotected against the advances of wolves, bears, and falling into ravines, and go after the one he has lost.
The ninety-nine are already “in,” already accounted for. They can, for at least the time it takes to do the searching, take care of themselves. They are no longer the most pressing concerns, the most needy, those who will get the majority of the shepherd’s focus.
And, when the one is found, the shepherd will rejoice over that lost-now-found sheep. There will be a party, held by the shepherd, for that sheep, and it will represent the full-on rave that will occur in heaven when a sinner repents of his ways.
Just in case the teachers of the law don’t get it, just in case the ‘sinners’ in attendance don’t know that Jesus is talking to them, too, Jesus tells another parable.
This time, a woman has ten silver coins, loses one, and goes on a full-on spring cleaning until she finds the one coin. And having found that coin, she throws a party that economically has to exceed the benefit of finding that last coin.
In both cases, Jesus takes the expected, the economic benefit of having ninety-nine sheep or finding a tenth silver coin, and flips them on their proverbial head. Jesus is saying the lost one is what drives the kingdom of heaven, that the lost one is what God is really seeking.
So, what if we’re getting it wrong?
What if we should want to be lost so that God can find us?
What if being found actually should look like recognizing that we’re perpetually lost? That without Jesus, we really are lost?
What if, when we become so self-assured that we’re found and in with Jesus, that we are lost-er than the people who actually have no idea about Jesus in the first place? (Yes, I am being grammatically incorrect and making up a word.)
What if, someone hearing this (or reading this) has never recognized that no matter what they’ve done to “get” lost, that Jesus is searching for them?
Notice that neither the one hundredth sheep or the tenth coin has a reason for how or why they got lost. Their “lostness cause,” the “why” to the situation, doesn’t matter.
Jesus doesn’t care if you’re lost because you can’t get over your hate, you lust after people you’re not in a Godly relationship with, you tell lies all the time, you gossip, you stole money once, or you just aren’t sure this church thing is for you. He just wants you to know that you’re lost and that GOD LOVES YOU ENOUGH TO GO LOOKING.
Have you ever been asked if you’ve “found Jesus?” My favorite illustration of this is a picture of two people knocking on a person’s door, asking the question, while Jesus ‘hides’ behind a curtain in the person’s home.
The thing is, Jesus doesn’t get lost. We do. We don’t need to ‘find’ Jesus. We need Jesus to find us.
I don’t do it often because I think we get stuck in a cycle of thinking we need to reinvite Jesus into our lives over and over again but… I want to ask you today to consider if you’ve ever asked Jesus to find you. I want to ask you to consider whether or not you’ve been hanging out with Jesus the way you know you should, or if you’ve somehow wandered off from the flock mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and you need to ask Jesus to find you RIGHT NOW.
Right now, I want you to stop and pray this prayer, “Jesus, I admit I’ve wandered away. I have been lost, but I know you’re searching. Please find me, claim me, and bring me back to where I’m supposed to be today. Amen.”
Now, to those of you who’ve been found, let’s clear up a couple of things.
First, don’t get too comfortable in being found. It’s not that I want you to doubt your relationship with Jesus; I want you to remember what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, wondering why those church people can know that they’re loved by God. I want you to think about what it’s like to be an ‘outsider’ and I want you to remember that Jesus became an outsider so that outsiders would be comfortable with him.
And second, I want to knight you today. I want you to know that each of you is a finder, whether you prayed a ‘get found’ prayer for the first time a couple of minutes or seventy years ago. It is YOUR JOB to go and share the good news that people are loved by God so that they will know Jesus is pursuing them, and turn around and get found.
It is NOT your job to find them. They know who they are. Jesus knows who they are. The problem with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees was they thought they got to decide who was ‘found’ and who was ‘lost.’
That’s not our call.
It’s our job to go seeking and to share. And when someone realizes that they were lost and they’ve been found? Then it’s our job to throw one heck of a party.