October 28, 2009

At the Core of the Crowd

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Matthew 16:13

If Jesus were to walk into your town today, I wonder what kind of people He would attract. If you were like the rest of us, you’d probably expect all the well-put-together churchgoers to show up and occupy the front row seats. But you just might be surprised.

In Luke 15, it wasn’t the good folk who crowded around Jesus; it was the tax collectors and “sinners.” These were the ones who lived in blatant disregard for the law—the problem people in town! Which makes me wonder, what is it about Jesus that attracted them? And why were the “good folk” standing at the fringe of the crowd? Because they were ticked at sinners to begin with and mad at Jesus for hanging out with such unworthy people!

Thankfully, Jesus puts things into perspective for them—and for us—with a few lessons about why He hangs out with sinners, by telling the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

The point Jesus makes is that sinners have great value to God. Why else would the shepherd go after one lost sheep, or the woman conduct a diligent search for her coin? They had suffered significant loss—a loss like God suffered when sin took people, His prized possession, away from Him.

And, to make matters worse, sinners are hopelessly lost. Sheep can’t help themselves when lost, and obviously when a coin is lost, it remains lost until someone finds it. Which means there must be intentional intervention to rescue the lost. That’s why Jesus said that He came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Obviously the grumblers on the fringe didn’t get it, but it was Jesus’ love and pursuit of sinners that drew their hearts to Him.

Got any “sinners” near you? Are you feeling a little standoffish and grumpy about them, or are you compelled to love them by launching a rescue operation of your own? After all, I bet you’re glad He went after you—as hopelessly lost and hell-bound as you were. So take a moment to remember what it was like to be lost, and do what you can to attract others to the joy of being found. You can’t go wrong when you’re at the core of the crowd. See you there!

Lord Jesus, I want to be at the core of the crowd. Forgive me for attitudes that counteract Your abundant mercy for the lost, and enable me to be Your hands and feet to reach out to those who desperately need to be found. Amen
by Joe Stowell