Jesus said: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. His apostle Paul wrote: This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15)
Search and Rescue Work
Search and rescue personnel risk their lives to find and help people who are in distress or in imminent danger. They go wherever needed. One team in Colorado stated: “Millions of people visit our mountains each year. A few will become lost, stranded, or injured. Some will die. Our objective is to find and rescue them before it is too late. We are dedicated to saving lives.” Search and rescue personnel serve in tumultuous seas, deep forests, remote mountains, and desert wastelands. In a single year, the U. S. Coast Guard responded to almost 20,000 Search and Rescue cases, saving 3,560 lives and more than $77 million in property. Their motto is: “This we do so others may live.”
Christ is Expert at This
In Luke chapter 15, the Lord tells three parables on this theme. Jesus was doing His search and rescue work, plucking tax collectors and sinners from the road that leads to Hell. Tax collectors were employed by the cruel Roman oppressors and often over-charged and swindled their Jewish countrymen. “Sinners” in Luke 15 refers to common people who were not nit-picky over man-made religious regulations like the Pharisees were. The haughty Jewish leaders thought that the common people were ignorant and godless. The Pharisees mocked Jesus for caring so much for the riffraff.
Lost Sheep are Rescued (Luke 15:3-7)
The Lord tells of a shepherd (representing God) who left his ninety-nine sheep with others to search for a single lost sheep. The shepherd clearly loves and values each member of his flock! And when he finds the wandering one, he joyfully carries it home on his shoulders, and calls his neighbors to give thanks with him. Christ concludes: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to.” Scripture says that all of us are sinners who need to change our ways.1 So Jesus is rebuking the spiritual snobs who need to turn back to God, but they don’t realize it. They are worse off than people who admit their wrong and come back to the Lord often.
The Lost Coin is Recovered (Luke 15:8-10)
The second parable is simple also. A woman (representing God) has lost one of the ten coins on her bridal necklace or headpiece. The coin has sentimental and monetary value to her. So she sweeps and searches her house carefully. When she finds it, she calls her neighbors to give thanks with her. The Savior concludes: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Again, the Lord is rebuking hard-hearted Pharisees. If a woman is so glad about finding a coin, why can’t they be glad when Jesus rescues lost people?
Both parables teach that God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) loves human beings made in His image. And He searches for and rescues those who have rejected Him and gone their own way. That’s how God is. And if He welcomes repenting sinners with open arms and forgives them, we can’t be any narrower than our Lord. Can we? Larry Osborne, in Accidental Pharisees, warns:
Our spiritual comparisons are incredibly biased. We have an amazing ability to compare things in a way that causes us to come out on top. And when we come out on top, it’s hard not to look down on people who don’t measure up.
The Lord says in Proverbs: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom….God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”2 So we ought to humble ourselves as we live under God, so that He may raise us up in the last day.3
God’s Loving Character
The Lord says: I long to be gracious to you; therefore I will rise up to show you compassion. For I am the God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for me in faith!…Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?”4
Let us all keep on returning to God all our lives!
Calling Out to The Lord
The Psalms show us how to ask God to rescue, save, deliver us from danger, enemies, and sickness. Here are some sample prayers from Psalms that we can use ourselves:
- Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down…rescue me from the wicked.
- Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
- Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
- Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
- Come near and rescue me; deliver me because of my foes.
- In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.
- Rescue the weak and the needy.5
We are not limited to these prayers. Jesus’ followers can offer our desires to God, in Christ’s name, for anything that agrees with His Scriptures, confessing our wrongs, and thankfully recognizing His mercies.
Praise the Lord, Jesus gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father!6
To be continued.
Notes (various translations): 1 Roman 3:10-18. 2 Prov 3:34, 11:2. 3 1 Peter 5:6. 4 Isaiah 30:18; Ezekiel 33:11. 5 Psalms 17:13; 25:20; 31:2; 44:26; 69:18; 71:2; 82:4. 6 Gal 1:4.