We recently lost something that was quite precious to us. The cost of replacement would be high and the inconvenience great. We knew it had to be somewhere around and we searched furiously.
We went through a range of emotions as we searched. From “surely this has got to be somewhere logical” to “I’ll try anywhere at all”. We felt hopeful, hopeless, frustrated, annoyed and despairing. All over something relatively small.
Jesus told three stories about lost things. The first was a lost sheep, the second a lost coin and the third a lost son. In each case, that which was lost was found, bringing joy to the one who had lost it.
I had heard these stories many times but what struck me as I searched with desperation was how the searcher was feeling. It was then that I realised that this teaching was completely radical, a complete reversal of how his listeners would have thought about God. It was unthinkable that a god would search for a person. It was always the other way around – the person should be seeking the god. I cannot think of a religion anywhere where the Deity would be seen to be searching for the lost.
Why three stories? The stories differ in how the one that was lost was responding to being lost. The coin couldn’t care less, the sheep knew it was in trouble but was a bit powerless to do anything about it, while the son was enjoying being lost for a time and then came to his senses and made his own way home. In the first two stories the one who searches gives up everything until the search is over; in the last story the son is respected to make his own decision but the father waits at the front gate each day hoping for his return.
Jesus presented here the story of the loving God who is desperate for relationship with the created. This is completely out there – I am not sure we really get it or we would talk about it a whole lot more. It certainly gave me something to think about.
P.S. If you find my car keys can you please give me a call.