"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." ESV
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." NIV
There are two phrases that I often say: “Rachel, have you seen my keys,” and “Rachel, have you seen my phone?” That’s because I tend to lose things. It’s a common experience for me to walk out the door only to find that I don’t have my keys or wallet. Perhaps you can relate.
If you are also prone to losing your things, then you probably know the “secret” to finding them. The key is to look “where you had it last.” If that doesn’t work, don’t panic. The next step is to look “where you typically keep it.” I’ve always been curious about these phrases. After all, if I knew where I last had my phone (by definition), it wouldn’t be lost. Oh well.
The point is this: typically, our things have a proper place. Your phone goes on the nightstand or in your pocket. Your wallet goes on the dresser. Your keys hang by the front door. Things are lost when they aren’t in their proper place.
Did you know the same is true for you and me?
You and I were created to live in a relationship with God. That’s where we flourish — it’s our proper place. In Luke 19:10, however, Jesus tells us that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The assumption is that apart from being found — apart from salvation — you and I are lost. We have wandered far from home.
Unlike your phone, however, which is easy to misplace, you and I intentionally walked away from God. Rather than loving God and pursuing his ways, humanity walked away from God and sought satisfaction elsewhere. The prophet Jeremiah explains our lostness this way. He says, “For my [God’s people] people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Here the prophet is explaining the intentional way in which people walk away from God. Notice two distinct movements that happen. The first movement is away from God (i.e., they have forsaken me). The second movement is toward empty desires (i.e., broken cisterns that can hold no water). In other words, when the Bible describes humanity as lost, the point is clear. We have walked away from the Creator and pursued our own way. We have left our proper place and looked for purpose elsewhere.
The good news is that Jesus loves lost people. He rejoices when those who are lost get found. That’s the reason why he came to earth — he came to seek and save lost people.
Just like you are relieved when you find your phone or wallet, Jesus rejoices when a lost person is found. Earlier in Luke’s gospel, we read about three parables Jesus told. One about a lost sheep, one about a lost coin, and one about a lost son. In each story, something or someone is lost. In each story, the lost person or thing is found. And in each story, there is rejoicing (see Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10, and Luke 15:24). You see, Jesus came to save lost people, and He delights when sinners come home. His desire for you is that through His death, burial, and resurrection, you would be restored to your “proper place.”
At the end of Jesus’ parables, something interesting happens. The Father of the “Lost Son” rejoices, but the brother is angry (see Luke 15:25-32). The older brother, who should have been happy that his younger brother had come home, was judgmental and condescending. He looked with contempt at his brother because he didn’t think that he deserved the grace of the Father. While it’s easy to read the story and wonder, “Why wouldn’t the older brother be happy,” it can be easy to have the same attitude. All of us are in danger of forgetting how lost we were when Jesus found us. But when you and I forget the mercy and grace that we received — when we forget what it’s like to be found — we will stop rejoicing when lost people come home. You see, Jesus didn’t seek and save you so that you can condemn those who are lost. He invites you to join him — he invites you to live on mission.
To proclaim to the world, “Follow me. I’ll show you the way home.”
Written By: Nick Harsh
Nick Harsh (MDiv, Clarks Summit University) is a ministry leader with The Salt Company, a ministry of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. While publishing regularly at nickharsh.com, his writing has also been featured at The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Relevant Magazine.