To the human soul, being lost in the woods is a most terrifying experience.
Nothing is as it appears to be. Familiar things appear strange. The path out of the woods is full of uncertain turns and blind passages. There is no horizon to go by and strange noises assail your ears and distort all your senses of direction. With quickened breath, you fight off a sense of panic.
One of the terms we use to describe the person without God is, “lost.” It is descriptive and revealing. Every turn you make could be the wrong turn. Every voice you hear is a questionable one—who knows whom to trust? You do the best you can with the information you have but you cannot escape the feeling that you are just getting deeper into the woods.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
In a strange turn of events, a group of tax collectors and other notorious sinners gathered to Jesus. We are not told why. It could be that the teaching of Jesus and His obvious power from God convinced them that they were lost and He could show them the way out of their woods. Perhaps in their world of dishonest dealings and routine wickedness they saw true virtue in Jesus and His men. This was a company of men who told and lived the truth. They were certainly not rich but they had something valuable, something the wicked men had lost or never even had.
For whatever reason, they came to Jesus and He responded, having dinner at one of their homes. Predictably, the Pharisees complained. “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” We are not told how this accusation was made so let’s imagine that a delegation of Pharisees invaded the home of their enemies. Jesus answered them with a Parable.
He placed each of the Pharisees into the lead role of a man with 100 sheep safely grazing in the wilderness, no doubt in the care of professional shepherds. An emergency arises—one of the sheep is lost! A lamb has wandered away from its mother. The owner takes matters into his own hands, leaves the 99 with his shepherds, and begins a thorough search for the lost lamb.
Eventually, it is found and there is great rejoicing, extending beyond the man and his hired shepherds to his neighbors. A lovely story, but what did it mean? Jesus sprang His trap: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Even the thick-skulled Pharisees got the point. Jesus went on.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
Jesus shifted genders to tell the story of a woman with 10 silver coins who had misplaced one of them. She did not count her losses and soldier on—she ransacked her house until the lost coin was found. She also called on her friends to celebrate with her!
‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’
Meaning? The focus of heaven is not simply on those safe within the fold—heaven searches for the lost lamb and scours the whole house until the lost coin is recovered.
A Party in Heaven
When a sinner comes home, there is a party in Heaven! When a lost treasure is found, Heaven pulls out all the stops! Why? The whole point of the Jesus Story is this: to find the lost ones and bring them home!
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Lord Jesus, thank You for finding me when I was lost! I know You love the 99 but You also love those who are lost and You seek them out. Your love is amazing! Help those who are lost in the woods, confused by the terror of being lost. Speak clearly to their hearts, Lord. Help them to know Your voice, that still, small, voice of peace. Let them sense the wooing of Your Holy Spirit. Help them see that You are their only hope! Save them, Lord!
A New Name Written Down in Glory
Word and Music: C. Austin Miles
1. I was once a sinner, but I came
Pardon to receive from my Lord.
This was freely given, and I found
That He always kept His word.
There’s a new name Written down in glory,
And it’s mine, oh yes, it’s mine!
And the white-robed Angels sing the story,
“A sinner has come home.”
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, oh yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven,
Nevermore to roam.
2. I was humbly kneeling at the cross,
Fearing naught but God’s angry frown,
When the heavens opened and I saw
That my name was written down.
3. In the Book ’tis written, “Saved by grace.”
Oh the joy that came to my soul!
Now I am forgiven, and I know
By the blood I am made whole.