Torchbearers for Christ
Sunday, June 23, 2024
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It is interesting to learn that some of the most delightful descriptions of the Lord Jesus were not spoken by His friends who loved Him, but by His enemies who hated Him. One such comment was made when tax collectors and outcasts came to listen to Jesus. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees grumbled, saying “This man receives and welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). These words were spoken in contempt, but they are gloriously true today.
A similar situation is recorded in Luke 19 when Jesus met a man called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who was very rich. We remember how this man, being small of stature, ran and climbed into a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus as He passed by. When Jesus reached the place, He called Zacchaeus by name, saying “hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today”. We read how Zacchaeus came down hurriedly and gladly received the Saviour. Once more we have indignant complaints; self-righteous persons muttering among themselves, complaining that He had “gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner”. Zacchaeus expressed genuine repentance for his sinful past, whereupon Jesus accepted him and explained His mission with the comment “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
In the 15th chapter of Luke, the Lord Jesus gave us three parables illustrating His mission to people who were lost. They apply to us all. They were the parables of the lost SHEEP, the lost COIN and the lost SON.  Each one of these represented a person who was lost, was searched for, and found. In the case of the sheep we could think of people who are lost carelessly. Sheep are by nature wanderers and unaware of the dangers that they may encounter as they drift from the safety of a flock. In the book of Isaiah the prophet spoke of this tendency when he said “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way....” (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep do not naturally return to a place of safety; they must be sought and found. The Lord Jesus is presented to us in Scripture as “the good shepherd who gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). In the parable of the lost sheep we are given a delightful picture of a seeking Saviour who searches for the lost sheep “until He finds it”. What tenderness and love are expressed, in that the Lord carries the lost sheep on His shoulders, bringing it home, calling friends and neighbours together to rejoice with Him “for I have found my sheep which was lost”. Having brought us back to His fold, the Lord now asks us to listen to His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). His promise is that “I give unto them eternal life and they will never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”. How amazing to think that heaven rejoices over one sinner that repents! Finding the lost sheep was not an easy matter for the Shepherd. His hands were torn with cruel nails; His back was beaten with a lash; He was “despised and rejected of men” and forsaken by His loving Father as He suffered for sinners. The Lord Jesus is also the guiding and providing shepherd who “restores my soul, leads me beside the still waters and makes me to lie down in green pastures”.
The COIN was lost helplessly. The lady who owned the coin had nine other precious pieces of silver, but she must find the lost one and so she lit a candle and searched diligently until she found it. Once again we have the picture of the Lord’s search for the lost sinner. Unless God were to take the initiative and send His Son to “seek and to save that which was lost:, we would be forever lost.
In the story of the lost SON, we have illustrated for us one who was lost wilfully. There was nothing wrong with the son’s father or the father’s house, but the son was rebellious and decided that there were better things in the “far country”. This was a disastrous choice, as he was to learn. Deprived of his money and his friends, he found a job feeding pigs and was even reduced to eating their food.   In his extremity he realised how foolish he had been and so he decided to return home to his father, confess his sinfulness and offer to serve as a hired servant. It is very touching to read how the father, seeing his son a great way off, had compassion, ran and lovingly embraced his returning son. His return was celebrated with a joyful feast, music and dancing. 
The Lord has given us these parables to illustrate two wonderful truths - His heart of love for men and women who have wandered away from Him and the joyful welcome those who return to Him can expect. Heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents.   
 This article was written by Pastor Geoffrey Davies. He is a frequent contributor to this column. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he pastored a church for over twenty-five years.  Since 1983 he has travelled widely, continuing his ministry of encouragement and Bible teaching.