by Steven Chan
When Jesus declared in Luke 19:10 that ‘the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,’ He had just found Zacchaeus who was lost in sin but was now found. Jesus said in Luke 19:9, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9), i.e. an heir to the promise made by God to Abraham (Gen 12:2; 22:18; Gal 3:7, 14, 29) that through his seed all nations shall be blessed.
But why is there a necessity to seek the lost when they are everywhere around us – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – Rom 3:23)?
When Jesus gave the commission to His disciples to go and preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt 10:6-14), He said to them:
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.”
The reality is that not everyone will “receive or hear your words” (i.e. the preaching concerning the kingdom of God). According to Rom 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” There will be those who will not hear or receive the word of God so as to be saved. In Matt 7:6, Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” One should not be discouraged with those who are unwilling to appreciate the value of the pearl of the gospel. Jesus noted that there were those who would not come to Him in John 5:40: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Paul was disappointed with many of his brethren, the Jews because they were unwilling to accept Jesus: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:2-3). But Jesus and Paul continued to seek the lost who were willing to hear the word of God so as to be saved.
It’s not possible for us to know the hearts of the lost. So, we should be careful not to pre-judge anyone as being beyond redemption. The Jews pre-judged Zacchaeus as one who was a sinner and not having a heart of good soil. But his response to the grace extended to him by Jesus must have surprised them.
So, we need to continually sow the seed of the kingdom of God among as many people as possible so that they may have the opportunity to respond to God’s free gift of salvation. There will be many who will reject the offer from God. We should not take it personally as if they were rejecting us (when in fact they are rejecting God’s grace and mercy) nor become discouraged. The Bible noted the response of some people to Jesus: “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”(Luke 7:30) Similarly, today there will be those who will reject the will of God (as clearly stated in Mark 16:16) by refusing to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).
Some of us are reluctant to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God for fear of being “hated” by our friends in the world. But we should listen to what our Lord said in John 15:18-19:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Again in John 3:19-20, the Bible declares:
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
But not everyone will hate or reject the word of God. There will be those who have tender hearts and who will respond positively to the invitation of God as recorded in Matt 11:28-30:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We must go, seek and find the lost for Christ. There are many who are burdened by the concerns of this world and are lost in sin and in ignorance of the promise of God. Paul did all he could to bring the message of salvation to the lost in the hope that many will be saved: “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor 9:22). Let’s not be discouraged in sowing the seed. When you feel discouraged, do remember what the Bible says in Heb 12:3: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Jesus “endured” hostility from sinners. Likewise we are to “endure” hostility when we live the Christian life and seek the lost. One cannot avoid the possibility of “rejection” or “hostility” when one seeks to share the gospel with our friends, our loved ones and those whom we meet. One just have to learn to endure such “hostility”.
We cannot be “thin-skinned” Christians, being “hyper-sensitive” to those who may reject our attempts to share the gospel with them. At the same time, we should avoid being a “nuisance” by insisting or harassing them to accept the free gift of salvation – when they have rejected the will of God for themselves by not accepting the precious gift of salvation, the pearl of the gospel. For the “servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26).
Let’s go forth seeking the lost as Jesus did, and found many including Zacchaeus. Jesus told the parables concerning the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son in Luke 15, to impress upon us the value of the ONE soul, and the need to seek it out. There is great joy in heaven when one soul is found: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7). That’s the work that God wants us to be involved in every day of our lives here on earth (Matt 28:18-20). Let’s resolve to go and seek those who will listen to the Word.