“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Luke 15:22-24 (NLT)
Preparing to leave town yesterday morning, Ozzy (my dog), in a fit of exuberance and excitement ran out the door and instead of getting in the car, as directed, ran across the street to meet a new friend. What Ozzy didn’t know was a car was coming down the street. I saw the car, so I moved toward the street thinking the driver would certainly see me before he saw Ozzy. Fortunately, the driver did see me and slowed down. It was certainly a near miss!
If dogs have nine lives, Ozzy used one yesterday. He was inches, maybe less, from his appointment in dog heaven.
Frightened, Ozzy raced to the back seat of our car. I spent the entire trip, hugging him and telling him how close he came to dying. I was upset with his misbehavior, but so happy he was still alive, Ozzy got to set on my lap for the entire trip.
It’s the theme of the entire chapter of Luke 15: losing and finding; the pain of one, the joy of the other. Jesus told 3 stories in Luke 15 after He heard the “churchy people” clucking their tongues about the people with whom Jesus associated Himself.
In each story, Jesus raises the ante. First a sheep who innocently wanders away; 1 of 100. Nothing sinister, the sheep simply strays away. The Good Shepherd recognizes the ONE missing from the flock and leaves the 99 to find the 1.
In the second story, the stakes are higher. It’s a day’s wage. It’s 1 out of 10. This is serious. Jesus uses a woman in this story, possibly to increase the stakes even more. If a woman has the money, she’s a widow or not married, her 10 coins could be all she has and she misplaced 1/10 of her cash. Search she does until the coin is in her hand.
Thirdly, it’s a 50/50 deal. One son hightails it off with his inheritance. How could this story turn out well? It ends as expected with the son broke and returning home, only this time his tail is between his legs.
The finding is not the end of any of the stories Jesus told that day.
Would you care if your neighbor found something he lost or if his rebellious son returned home? Maybe you would but certainly not as much as the neighbor cares.
Is that the point?
God cares about the one who drifts off in an act of complacency, the who becomes “misplaced” due to the careless acts of another or the one who stomps off, of his own free will. God cares so much that when the person “is found” again He throws a heavenly party rejoicing that the one who was lost is now found!
None of lost give their story. The sheep doesn’t explain to the shepherd why he left. The coin has no tale of rolling under the sofa, the son tries, but is cut off by his Dad’s exuberance. Tell the neighbors because you found one sheep? Throw a party; most likely costing as much as the coin you found? Reinstating a rebellious child to the position he snubbed? That’s extravagant! Those are acts of wild love!
That’s how much God cares for the lost. That’s how much God wants the believer to care for the lost.
If you are lost, it doesn’t matter why, God loves you and is ready to throw a party when you return. If you are lost – RUN – run to a God who loves you!
If you are one of the sheep that didn’t leave the heard, a coin that stayed put in the purse or the faithful brother that remained at home – God is calling you to a have a burden for the lost, not to condemn the lost, but to seek them and offer them the Good News!
God has the party hats ready! Give Him an opportunity to bust them out!
Father, give me Your burden for the lost. Teach me to love as You do! Help me to be extravagant with the same grace you lavished on me!