We thought of God as one who turned away from us in disgust.
Yet when we were lost, He showed that He truly cares for us.
For He came searching to find us, so that He can lead us home.
The moment Man first experienced sin, He began to doubt the goodness of God. Man looked at the shame of his nakedness, and just wanted to hide.
After being exiled from the garden, Man began to tell stories of a God whose arbitrary test had robbed us. Man told stories of a God whose “eyes are too pure to look on evil” which is why He had “hidden his face” from them (Habakkuk 1:13; Ezekiel 39:24). Man told stories of a God whose justice demanded to be appeased. Man told stories of wrath unleavened by love.
And so, with these stories, came the implicit excuses. “God tricked us,” cried Man. “We couldn’t help it.” “We were naive and innocent, and God banished us, and then hid from us.” “Who can find God?”
These stories and excuses serve to shift blame. Instead of admitting fault and repenting, Man began to blame anyone but Himself. Man blamed Woman. Woman blamed the serpent. And they both blamed God.
But in these stories, Man forgot one important fact: that it was God who came into the garden “to seek and to save the lost” (Genesis 3:8; Luke 19:10).
Seeking the lost
When God revealed Himself in Jesus, He reminded us that He wants to save those who are lost.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not be lost but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who really cares about His sheep. The Shepherd who knows each one of His sheep by name. The Shepherd who tenderly cares for His flock, making sure they always have green pasture and plenty of water. Jesus is the Shepherd who would risk His life defending His sheep against the serpent who attacks the sheep.
Jesus is the Shepherd who, realising that almost all the sheep are safely in the fold, is willing to go searching, searching, searching for even the last lost sheep, so that He can lead that sheep all the way home (John 10:1–21; Matthew 18:12).
And after telling us how Jesus cares for the sheep, Jesus says, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). In other words, all the care and attention Jesus says He will give to the sheep, is the same care and attention that God the Father gives to us. For Jesus reveals God, because He is like God. He is exactly like God (Hebrews 1:3). The care Jesus shows to us is the same care that the Father shows to us.
“It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these [‘children’ ‘who believe in me’] should be lost” (Matthew 18:14 [vss 2, 6]).
“The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should be lost, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
For in Jesus, God had come into this world to seek and save those who have “no hope and are without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
A concrete example
During Jesus’ life and ministry, He gave us many examples of searching and finding the lost sheep. Here is one such example.
One day, when Jesus was travelling from Judea to Galilee through Samaria,
4-6 He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
11-12 The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
13-14 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
15 The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
16 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
17-18 “I have no husband,” she said.
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
19-20 “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
21-23 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
25 The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
26 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
28-30 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
39-42 Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman’s witness: “He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!” They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, “We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Saviour of the world!” (John 4, The Message).
Partners with Christ
When this woman came across Jesus sitting at the well, she was a lost sheep. By the time she went back to the village, she was already a partner in the gospel.
You and I were lost sheep. But Jesus called us by name, and we heard Him. At the sound of His Voice, something inside of us sprang into life. So we too, are partners in the gospel.
We are to partner with Christ by being His witnesses to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). And that means being witnesses right here.
And what are we witnesses of? We are to be witnesses of the true character of God. We are to speak about a God abounding in love, a God who comes searching to find those who are far from Him. We are to speak about a God who gently calls us by name and then safely leads them home.
We are not only to tell this story. We are to live this story. For just as Jesus is the image of God, we are called to be the image of Jesus (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:29). Jesus did what He saw His Father doing (John 10:25), and we are to do what we see Jesus doing.
We are to search out the lost sheep, just like Jesus.
This message based on John 4:4–30, 39–42; Philippians 1:3–5.