Some time ago our family was putting
together a jig-saw puzzle. We were
fitting pieces together and watching
with anticipation as the puzzle became
more and more like the picture on the
box. We were having a lot of fun.
Finally we were done, but the puzzle was
not complete. There was one crucial
piece missing. And the picture just
didn't look right. We searched
everywhere, but couldn't find the
How many of you know the feeling? First
there is a sense of accomplishment as
you're nearing the completion of your
project. But the sense of achievement
can quickly turn to frustration because
of one missing piece?
Later, when the piece was found, the
hole family gathered around and rejoiced
over the now completed puzzle. The most
important piece had been found. Without
this piece the picture would never be
Jesus also knows about missing pieces.
In Luke 15 He encountered the opposition
of the religious elite because, in their
words: "This man (that is, Jesus)
welcomes sinners and has fellowship with
The laws of the Pharisees prohibited any
kind of association with the so-called
"people of the land". The people of the
land were the people who did not observe
the strict pharisaic teachings and their
petty legalism. The people of the land
were not necessarily bad people. They
were just not the who's who in terms of
the Jewish ceremonial tradition.
And so it comes as no surprize that the
Lord's association with tax collectors
and sinners would draw criticism.
Jesus responded to their criticism with
a couple of parables. Please turn with
me to Luke 15 and let's listen to the
words of Jesus:
4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred
sheep and loses one of them. Does he not
leave the ninety-nine in the open
country and go after the lost sheep
until he finds it? 5 And when he finds
it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders
6 and goes home. Then he calls his
friends and neighbors together and says,
`Rejoice with me; I have found my lost
sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same
way there will be more rejoicing in
heaven over one sinner who repents than
over ninety-nine righteous persons who
do not need to repent. 8 "Or suppose a
woman has ten silver coins and loses
one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep
the house and search carefully until she
finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she
calls her friends and neighbors together
and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found
my lost coin.' 10 In the same way, I
tell you, there is rejoicing in the
presence of the angels of God over one
sinner who repents."
As we look at these parables let us keep
in mind that the Jews had an
understanding of a God who wipes out
sinners from the face of the earth. The
strict Jews would have said: "There is
joy in heaven over one sinner who is
destroyed before God." They looked
sadistically forward not to the saving
but to the destruction of the sinner.
Is it not true that we also are
sometimes caught in this self-righteous
and condemning attitude?! The parables
of Jesus offer a lot of material for
self-examination for all of us.
Let us turn our attention to the parable
of the lost sheep and the parable of the
Shepherds in Judea had a hard and
dangerous task. The pasture on the
Palestinian countryside was scarce. The
terrain was laid with rocky walls and
cliffs, and surrounded by desserts where
wild animals lurked.
The shepherd was personally responsible
for the sheep. If a sheep was lost the
shepherd must at least bring home the
fleece to show how it had died. These
shepherds were excellent trackers and
could follow the footfrins of a straying
sheep for miles across the hills. It was
in a shepherd's day's work to risk his
life for his sheep.
Many of the flocks were communal flocks,
belonging to an entire village. At night
those flocks that were safe would come
home on time, and often the shepherds
would bring news that one shepherd was
still out on the mountain searching for
a lost sheep. The whole village would be
watching and praying for his safe
return. And then, when, in the distance,
they saw the shepherd striding home with
the lost sheep across his shoulders, a
shout of joy and thanksgiving went up
from the camp.
The parable of the lost coin expresses
the same concern for the lost. In
Palestine the mark of a married woman
was a head-dress made of ten silver
coins, linked by a silver chain. The
lost coin may have come from such a
head-dress. In Palestine, where the
houses were poorly lit, it would be
almost impossible to find such a coin
that had been lost. But the woman would
do everything in her power to search for
her coin until it was found.
That is the picture that Jesus drew of
God. God is like the shepherd, who does
not count the costs, but who goes after
the lost sheep no matter what. God is as
glad when a lost sinner is found as a
shepherd when a stray sheep is brought
That is also the model that the church
is called to follow in it's concern for
the lost. Like the shepherd, we, as
Christ's disciples, must take
responsibility for the missing sheep and
missing coins in our lives.
Missing pieces come in different shapes
and sizes. At times, our own lives are
burdened with missing pieces. Sometimes
it seems as if the devil had mixed up
different sets of puzzle, and the pieces
just don't fit. Sometimes we feel
distant from God, and the safety-net of
the church community. We may be going
through some times of confusion and
transition in our lives. Times of
testing and trials. Be it in school, in
our family life, at work. Sometimes we
are lost. We failed God and people. And
to top it off, we feel the guilt of our
conscience, and the condemnation of
people who do not understand our pain.
Sometimes the missing pieces are pieces
from our church community. Loved ones
and friends who turned against the
church in cinicism. Those who have
rejected the flock and have wandered off
in search of greener pastures. Those who
have fallen into the devils claws
because of their own stupidity. (People,
like sheep have a tendency to do that
There may also be those pieces that got
lost for lack of proper care from the
church community. When people's gifts
and talents find greater recognition and
acceptance outside of the church than in
the church, chances are that they will
serve where they feel accepted and
valued. Some sheep are also alienated
from the group for the sake of keeping
the establishment intact.
The Pharisees, who controlled the
religious environment of that time, are
in fact portrayed as the most lost of
all. Their self-righteousness inhibited
God's grace from working in their lives.
They could not conceive of a God who
actually cared for people rather than
for a system that they had created.
Therefore, it is not surprising, that
Jesus addresses the Pharisees and
Scribes, that is, everyone who seems to
have their religion together. Leaders in
the church, as well as everyone who has
become comfortable with "having done
their part" are called to
accountability. Our responsibility is
to point those who are lost and
struggling towards the love of God
through our witness.
God is searching and waiting for his
children who are missing. Without you
and me the puzzle cannot be completed.
Whatever the circumstances may be in
your and my life, if we are not a part
of God's picture GOD IS LOOKING FOR US.
Like the father in the parable of the
prodigal son, He waits. His heart
aching. His love burning. Determined to
find His straying child. He is patient.
He doesn't force Himself upon us. He
says: "Come home, my child. I miss you,
when you're not there."
As long as one of His beloved sheep is
missing the picture is incomplete.
Ezekiel 34:16 says, 16 I will search for
the lost and bring back the strays. I
will bind up the injured and strengthen
And Ezekiel 18:32: I have no pleasure in
the death of anyone, declares the
Sovereign LORD. Therefore Repent and
God's heart is set on finding the
missing pieces. He waits for us with
outstreched arms, ready to receive us in
His endless grace. He is ready to carry
us on his shoulders, back to the flock.
God came to us in the life and ministry
of His son Jesus to call sinners to
repentance, and to reconcile us to
Himself. (Isaiah 53:6) We all, like
sheep, have gone astray, each of us has
turned to his own way; but the Lord has
laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.
Jesus has paid the price for our sins.
My friend, God is searching for those
who are lost. His intention is not to
condemn us, but rather that there may be
rejoicing in the presence of God's
angels over one sinner who repents.
God's outstreched arms are longingly
waiting for you and me. God offers His
forgiveness to all who come to Him.
As the choir sings, I want to invite you
to come to Jesus, who is the true
shepherd of our souls. I would invite
you to respond to God's invitation by
standing in your place, or by coming to
the front, if you feel so led. You may
be a long time follower of Jesus Christ,
and maybe you're going through some
difficult times - God calls you to
recommit your life to Him. Come home,
for that's where you belong. Or maybe
you wish to give your life to Jesus for
the first time. If that's the case,
God's invitation is especially for you.
Come to Jesus; he offers forgiveness and
new life. Jesus is waiting...