Dear fellow pilgrims,
In today’s Gospel reading, I hear Jesus responding to the Pharisees’ implicit belief that tax collectors and sinners are to be shunned, avoided, looked down upon. (“He welcomes them? Why?”) Interestingly, Jesus does not address a broader assumption of the Pharisees – that they are not sinners but those people obviously are – but rather, highlights His Identity as Redeemer, finder of the lost. Jesus is also responding to the Pharisees’ implicit beliefs in Him as someone who is on the earth to make an impression, be a big name, gain power, shake things up. (“Why would someone like him be with people like them?)
No, Jesus tells them in two parables that He has come not to wine and dine with the elite, but to seek and find the lost. He is on a rescue mission, not a publicity tour promoting his new ideas about the world. The lost sheep are the ones He is looking for, because His joy is bringing them back into the fold.
Perhaps you too thought of the very popular worship song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury when you read this passage. (“Leeeeaves the niiiiinety niiiine…”) I think this song has gotten so popular because it speaks the Gospel message to the heart of this generation of young people who longs to be seen and chosen out of the crowd as an individual worth losing everything for.
It’s easy to feel like your love as a millennial is being pulled in a thousand different directions. We are so used to calculating risk and reward with relationships – and also used to internet algorithms literally calculating which ads will draw our love and affection towards which products – that we are so compelled when we encounter a reckless, uncalculating love.
Why did the sheep wander? Why do we wander from the fold?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy to fall into the lie that our absence wouldn’t be noticed or appreciated. We forget how we are loved. We forget that we are irreplaceable. That image of the shepherd leaving all of his other sheep to find the one lost sheep speaks truth into that lie in my heart of being forgettable. And even if I am forgettable to other people, Jesus will never leave or forsake me.
In this passage, Jesus is helping the Pharisees see both the lost sheep as worth the sacrifice and Himself as the determined shepherd, looking to keep his flock together as one. And, even more so, He is highlighting that He seeks those who are lost because they are lost; He rejoices when they are found, and desires others to share in this joy.
Jesus, may we yield to your pursuing of our hearts.
Reclaim the lost of this world, especially those who are farthest from your heart.
Show us the parts of our heart that are still far from You.
Thank you for never giving up your pursuit of our hearts.