“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,’” Luke 15:1, 2.
The lost and found section of São Paulo’s subway system is located at the Sé station. The numbers pertaining to this section are impressive: two years ago, the industry collected 80,000 items forgotten in the system’s subway stations. This is an average of over 200 items per day. Of course, the most common items that are left behind are wallets, cell phones, books, and clothing items. But it is possible to find strollers (without the child, thankfully), typewriters, dentures, and even prosthetics of amputated limbs. It is hard to imagine how people can forget such personal items. The day-to-day rush and the cramming of the train cars can account for many such cases of forgetfulness. However, the worst tragedy is not losing personal belongings, but losing a child to violence or drugs, or losing one’s direction in life and living a meaningless or purpose-less life. Yet today there are many who live out this drama.
Lost lives touch God's heart as well. The Bible says that on one occasion “he saw a large crowd, [and] he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” Mark 6:34. One criticism that the religious leaders of the time had against Jesus could be considered a compliment. They complained that He was "a friend of sinners" (Matthew 11:19). Those devotees could not understand how someone who claimed to be God's Anointed could walk with people who were rejected by society.
In chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke, we find the narration of three stories (parables) that can help us understand what God feels towards the lost. This chapter is known as the "Lost and Found" section of the Bible.
One of the most beautiful and comforting messages of the Holy Bible is found in that section. The three stories presented illustrate different types of sinners. All three parables have a "happy ending," revealing that the love of God is immeasurable, and that no sinner who desires to be saved is beyond the reach of divine grace and mercy. However, the very desire to be saved is placed in the human heart by the Holy Spirit. “[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Timothy 2:4.
The initiative in the process of the salvation of sinners is always divine. No sinner can return to God by himself. If sinners depended on their own initiative and efforts to achieve salvation, they would be hopelessly lost.
Grace and mercy are employed by God to draw the sinner "with cords of love". No one is worthy of divine mercy and love. The sinner is totally incapable of performing any act worthy of the love of God, and thus his salvation depends entirely on divine grace.
The following stories, properly understood, reveal how much God is willing to do to recover His lost creatures. If the sinner does not interject his perverse will against the divine work of saving him, he will undoubtedly have everything he needs to be restored to the Father's home.
We are sure that the study of these parables will be highly beneficial to all sinners, be they stray sheep, lost drachmas, or prodigal children who have left the father's house in pursuit of a perceived "freedom," which is nothing more than a delusion produced by the prince of this world, leader of the powers of darkness.
On one occasion, the general theme of the Spiritual Conference at which I was to deliver a sermon based on Luke 15 was advertised as: "Jesus Receives Sinners”. One lady approached me and said, "I am very happy to know that Jesus receives sinners." I am also very happy to know and spread this fundamental truth that provides hope and comfort. I hope that you will also greatly benefit from knowing the great love of Jesus for each soul for whom He gave His precious life.
Davi P. Silva