This is a talk I gave at Christ the King Church Sunday Praise after Easter. I felt it is worth re visiting. - Graeme Scott
After Easter – What?
On Easter Sunday Morning we visited Jesus’ tomb in the company of two of Jesus’ most loyal disciples, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. We shared in their sorrow as, together, we carried the spices to prepare Jesus body for burial. But when we got to the tomb something amazing happened.
As we were reading these passages on Easter Sunday something struck me which I hadn't noticed before. I noticed it first in what the angel said:
“Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to the cross. He isn't here! God has raised Him to life, just as Jesus said he would. Come see the place where the body was lying. Now hurry! Tell his disciples that He has been raised to life and is on His way to Galilee. Go there and you will see him. That is what I came to tell you.”
Then we saw Jesus say the same thing:
“Don’t be afraid! Tell my followers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.”
So what was it about Galilee? Let’s reconnect with the story:
Don’t you see that as significant? There was one thing on the mind of the risen Jesus. When he walked out of the grave that Easter Sunday, when he stepped out into the fresh air that morning; he emerged into a whole new world. What Jesus had achieved over that Easter weekend had changed human history. The stone was rolled away, Jesus was alive, sins were forgiven, the path back to relationship with God was now open.
Jesus now had only days to complete the task begun when he was born 33 years before in Bethlehem. The success of His mission was dependant on what could be achieved in the next few hours. So He wasted no time in gathering His followers.
Could he inspire a group of traumatised disciples to the point where they would give their lives for what mattered most? Jesus had spent the last 3 years packing their chests with high explosive. Could he now send them out to use what he had imparted to change the world? That was His challenge!
Let’s back up a couple of months. Let’s stand quietly in the shadows as Jesus equips his followers by sharing His heart.
Remember the story of the short bloke named Zacchaeus?
Jesus was going through Jericho where a man named Zacchaeus lived. He was in charge of collecting taxes and was very rich. Jesus was heading his way and Zacchaeus wanted to see what He was like. But Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree. When Jesus got there, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” Zacchaeus hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus.
Everybody who saw this started grumbling, “This man Zacchaeus is a sinner! And Jesus is going home to eat with him.’
Later that day Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “I give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back 4 times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.”
Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today you and your family have been saved, because you are a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man came to look for and to save the lost.”
Here we have an insight into Jesus very heart: “The Son of Man came to look for and to save the lost.”
Today I want to suggest to you that this is what “the Galilee hui,” that Jesus called his disciples to, was all about. It was about vision alignment and that the vision Jesus was seeking to impart was summed up in this verse. I suggest that if we can, today, get a fresh understanding, a new insight into what this verse means then Easter 2016 will have achieved it’s purpose.
“The Son of Man came to look for and to save the lost.”
I’d like us to take a fresh look at Luke chapter 15 as we seek to understand God’s heart for lost people.
Most of us have heard the stories in this chapter many times before … the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son are not new to us … but as CS Lewis once said, “We don’t need new truths as much as we need to be reminded of old ones…”
Let’s pray as we come to this chapter:
“Father, today, we want to continue our discovery of the true meaning of this season. We want to know your heart better so that our own hearts too can beat with resurrection life; that we too can live our lives with resurrection purpose. Reveal your plan for our lives today, as you revealed to your disciples that first Easter.”
Have you ever played the game of Hide & Seek. It’s real simple. Here’s the rules of engagement: one person seeks and everybody else runs off and hides.
If you are playing hide and seek, the fun part is to be one of the hiders. It’s best, because if you’re one of the hiders, you get to be in control. You get to decide where you are going to go and you get to keep your eyes open. You get to call the shots.
You see the hard job in Hide and Seek is to be the one who has to do the seeking. I mean after you get the job you have to let everyone run away from you and then you have to keep looking for people who are trying to evade you, people who are laughing at your inability to find them. That’s why nobody wants that job; because if you take it, everybody is going to run away and you’ll be on your own.
And have you noticed that in the game of Hide and Seek that the one who gets stuck with the job of seeking doesn't even get much of a title. I mean in other games you at least get some sort of title. In netball, for instance a Goal Attack gets to do just that, a Wing Defence gets to defend something that matters. But not in Hide and Seek ... What do you call the poor kid who does the seeking? “It,” just plain old “It”. That’s not a great title eh? There’s actually not much to commend a job like that. In fact get a group of kids together and nobody wants to be “It”. Remember what happens? .... “1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato 4 ....” Nobody wants to be "It"!
Another question: What happens at the end of the game, if people have hidden themselves too well? What happens if everyone has successfully eluded “It” through the entire game? .... or maybe “It’s” mum call him in for tea. “It” cups his hands and shouts as loud as he can. He shouts loud enough to be heard all over the neighbourhood. “It” ends the game by saying 7 words, “All ye, all ye, Outs in Free” That’s what the encyclopaedia I looked up said. But most of us recognise it more like “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free”
Whatever. In Hide & Seek, hear “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free” and you’re home safe. No one will chase you. No one will tag you. You won’t have to suffer any penalties… and most important of all.... you won’t have to be “It.” Why? You see, “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free”, is the cry of grace to people who are hiding.
“OK Graeme, let us into the secret,” you might say, “What on earth has that all got to do with the heart of the resurrected Jesus?”
In Luke 15 Jesus is telling a series of Hide & Seek stories …. stories where there is someone who is seeking and someone who is lost or hiding. And do you what the really amazing thing is? In this all important game of Hide and seek ... God has chosen to be ‘It’ ... and He has chosen to be “It” forever!
There’s an important truth as we look at these stories. Often people, who are on a spiritual journey, think of themselves as “seekers”. They’ll tell you that they’re seeking for truth, or maybe even go as far as to say that they’re searching for God. They ask questions, read books; they go to Alpha Courses and they attend church, all in a search of the truth…
And understand me, it really is a good thing to seek ... but that’s not the whole story. You see the truth about us is that we are not just ‘seekers’, we are also ‘hiders’. It’s important for me to come face-to-face with my tendency to get lost ... to hide from God.
You see Hide and Seek is a game that people have been playing with God since the creation. Remember the story? .... After they ate the forbidden fruit, what did Adam & Eve do? They hid from God in bushes ... and you know we've been doing it ever since!
They hid in the shrubbery but what do we hide behind today? What about: busyness, pleasure, money, material possessions, religion, work, an addiction, a relationship and many other things.
But whatever it is that we might choose to hide behind, consciously or subconsciously … the objective is always the same… to hold God at arm’s length, to keep God from seeing us!
Why do we try to hide from God? There are as many reasons for hiding as there are places to hide … but if I talk about me ... maybe:
• I've done something wrong. I've let God down ... again
• like Peter who betrayed Jesus I feel ashamed and unworthy
• I know there is something I am doing that God is not pleased about, but that I am not ready to change
But, here’s the bottom line, we hide from God because we don’t understand who God is. You see if we knew who God was… we would realise that we can’t ever hide from God. He sees everything.
Have we ever wondered how God feels about us when we’re lost ... when we’re hiding ... when I've strayed away ... when I've left His path to do it my way? When God sees lost people what does he see; how does he feel?
Let’s have a look at Luke chapter 15:
Tax collectors and sinners were all crowding around to listen to Jesus. So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses started grumbling, “This man is friendly with sinners. He even eats with them.”
There were two groups of people gathered around Jesus? Sinners & tax collectors, who wanted to hear the words of life from the master teacher…and religious people. Jesus got up their noses big time ... “If Jesus was who He said He was then surely He’d treat these people as the outcasts they were. Instead He sat around drinking coffee with them ...”
What they failed to understand was that every person, regardless of race, education, colour, looks, socio-economic standing, their past or their present mattered to God ...
... which brought on Jesus first parable:
If any of you has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? And when you find it, you’ll be so glad that you’ll put it on your shoulder and carry it home. Then you will call in your friends and neighbours and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep.” Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who do not need to.
In New Zealand most of us have worked with sheep at some time in our lives or found one tangled in a fence somewhere. What do you think the odds are that this sheep will make it back home on his own? Not very good because, however we look at it sheep are dumb…
Hey, have you noticed that most animals that have any IQ at all ultimately get some kind of a TV series of their own or even a movie.
Let’s try ourselves out:
Dolphins – Flipper
Dogs – Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Beethoven
Cats – Garfield
Horses – Black Beauty, Sea Biscuit
Pigs – Babe
But sheep, no way!
Bottom-line, - sheep are dumb. So what is the only hope this lost sheep has? That his Shepherd will search for him and find him…that’s it ...that’s his only hope. And why would a shepherd do this? For one reason and only one reason - that lost sheep matters to him!
And people, here’s the point… Why did Jesus come to seek and save the lost… because people matter to God? I love how Bill Hybels puts it, “You will never locked eyes with anyone who does not matter to God.” Look around…. Every face you see matters to God… and when you leave here and maybe you call into a shop on the way home ... every face you see matters to God.
It doesn't matter to this shepherd, how or why people are lost. Whatever the reason, he will go out after them.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost and when He walked the dusty streets of this world he went after lost people; passionately, individually and personally... no matter where they were… who they were… or what they were hiding behind… Jesus went after them. Always the cry was the same, “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free”
• He went after Nathaniel as he sat under a fig tree
• He went after a woman who had been married 5 times and was now shacked up with number 6
• He went after Peter as he was casting a net
• He went after Matthew as he sat behind a tax booth
• He went after an invalid as he lay by the pool of Bethsaida
• He went after a prostitute as she anointed his feet with perfume
• He went after a crooked tax collector as he sat up in a tree … and he called him by name.
Every person matters to God… maybe that’s why there are so many lists of names in the bible.
So how did the shepherd treat the sheep when he found her? The shepherd just opens his arms and gathers the sheep around him and goes home…. no condemnation, no lecture, just a shepherd so filled with compassion towards the sheep that when he finds it, his heart melts. And what does he do when he gets home… he throws a party.
What do you think is going through the minds of the sinners and tax collectors as they heard this? “No way Jesus ... I can’t matter that much to the father… not me ... not where I’ve been ... not with all I've done… I mean just look at me… “
And Jesus would say, “Oh yes he has, ... in fact the Father has had party plates, cups, napkins and a banner with your name on it since the day he knew you in your mothers womb. He’s been waiting all this time, to stop all the activity of heaven and throw a party for you on the day you come home. You matter to God…
Jesus told the people another story: What will a woman do if she has 10 coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? Then she will call in her friends and neighbours and say, “Let’s celebrate! I've found the coin I lost.” Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God.
We need to understand that this was more than just a coin; it was kind of like a wedding dowry. In Jesus day there were 10 coins a married woman would wear around her headdress. Losing a coin would be like losing the diamond in your engagement ring. So what does she do? She lights the lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds it! Why? Because the coin, was valuable to her.
Can I ask you a question?
Do you feel valuable? Not just when you’re sitting here in church ... but ... do you feel valuable on a Monday morning? A Wednesday afternoon? A Friday night? Do you feel valuable at home? At work? At school? And if you don’t feel valuable, why don’t you?
Is it because:
• You don’t have enough money
• You’re not good looking enough
• You’re not smart enough
It is difficult for most of us to measure up. And the more we focus on the world’s standards and values, the more negative we feel about ourselves.
God has a different system, and if our faith is in Him, we can feel tremendous relief. Christ talked about the worth of an individual. His words are good news to all of us who will never be fashion models, billionaires or members of Mensa.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to let every person know how valuable they are to God. Jesus came to a lot of people who didn’t feel all that valuable. I mean, how valuable do you think:
• the woman caught in adultery in John 8 felt
• or the crippled man in John 5.
• What about the blind man in John 9?
• The leper in Luke 17?
• I bet the demon possessed man in Mark 5
• the widow in Luke 7
• or the single mom with the demon possessed daughter in Matthew 13 didn’t feel too crash hot!
But that was before they met Jesus. Remember those 2 women we talked about making their way in gloomy silence to the tomb that Easter Sunday. But remember the contrast? What was the turning point? A meeting with Jesus! After that, those women and these people in our list felt priceless ... and they were.
What do you think God sees when he looks at you? What do you think he sees at this very moment? Maybe it will help us to answer that question if we answer this one… What did Jesus see as he looked into the eyes of the sinners and tax collectors who were listening to him tell this story for the very first time?
I know somebody who changed houses recently and in that game you very quickly learn that the value of something is determined by the price somebody will pay. You can think your house is worth so much ... but if nobody will pay that...
Let’s check out our true value. Here’s how Peter put it in the New Testament:
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you.
Friends, could you get any more valuable then that?
Listen to me ... you are valuable ... you are priceless ... you are worth the precious lifeblood of Christ ... so don’t let anyone or anything tell you or make you feel otherwise… Not your parents, wife, husband, children, boss, friends, enemies, society, your past or your present…
Yes we are valuable, and God will light the lamp and sweep the floor. He will search and pursue until He finds us. Friends, 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, cried from that blood stained cross, “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free!” You can all come out now. It’s safe. There’s no penalty ... I paid it for you. You matter to God and you’re valuable to Him
Jesus also told them another story:
Once a man had 2 sons. The younger said to his father, “Give me my share of the property.” So the father divided his property between the 2 sons. Not long after that the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through the whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat. He went to work for a man in that country and the man sent him out to take care of the pigs. He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing.
Finally, he came to his senses and said, “My fathers workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! I will go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.” The younger son got up and started back to his father.
Imagine the scene. The son trudging down the dusty road rehearsing his speech. The father sitting on the porch his eyes wrinkled from the time he spent longingly looking into the haze, just dreaming of the day ...
But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him ...
The old man was up ... and yes ... runs… something fathers in that culture never did ... Remember this is a picture of God. Here we see God in a hurry!
He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. The son said, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son.
But the father said to his servants, “Forget that servant stuff. Hurry, and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. Get the best calf and prepare it so that we can eat and celebrate. This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found. And they began to celebrate.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost because:
• Every person matters to God
• People are valuable to God
• God wants every person to come home
I want to conclude with a story about a woman in Korea right after the Korean War. This woman had gotten pregnant by an American soldier. The soldier went back to the United States and she never saw him again. She gave birth to a little girl. But this little girl was very different than the other little girls. Her hair was light coloured and curly so she stood out.
In that particular culture that meant that child and the mother would be completely rejected by society. In fact some mothers in Korea who gave birth to children from American fathers actually killed their babies because they couldn’t stand the humiliation, the rejection, the heartache of the way they were treated by other people.
This woman kept her baby and she tried her best to raise this child for the next seven years. But the rejection and the humiliation and the taunting and the harassment that she experienced was too much for her ... so she did something nobody here could imagine anybody doing. She abandoned that seven-year-old girl to the streets.
That little girl wasn’t alone though, because there were packs of little children living on the streets. They would live under bridges and in abandoned buildings and they would go outside of town and live in caves. And they would just eat whatever they could find on the street and on the land, bugs, locusts, roots and things like this.
This little girl was ruthlessly taunted by everybody she would encounter. They would call her the ugliest word in the Korean language, a word that means “Alien devil”, until after a while this little girl began to draw conclusions about herself. This is what she would say years later, “When you hear what you are as a little child day after day after day you begin to believe that about yourself. I believed that anyone could do whatever they wanted to me physically because I wasn’t a person. I was inhuman. I was dirty. I was unclean. I had no name. I had no identity. I had no family. I had no future. And I hated myself.”
For two years she lived on the streets. Finally there was a new orphanage that opened up. It had very little money. It was a very primitive kind of place, but at least it was safe and it was a place she could go and not be assaulted and attacked and harassed. So they took her into the orphanage.
Pretty soon, word came, that a couple from America was going to come to that orphanage and they were going to adopt a little baby boy. The word went out among all the orphans in the orphanage. This was the best news of all. Some little boy among them was going to have a fresh start, a new chance and a future. Somebody was going to escape from this orphanage. So this little girl, who was now nine years old and who was the oldest child in the orphanage, began to bathe the little boys and clean them up and get them all ready, wondering who was it that this American couple was going to choose and adopt and take back to America.
The next week this American man and his wife came. This is what the girl recalled: “It was like Goliath had come back to life. I saw that man with his huge hands lift up each baby and I knew he loved every one of them as if they were his own. I saw tears running down his face and I knew if they could they would have taken the whole lot. Then he saw me out of the corner of his eye. I was nine years old but I didn’t even weigh thirty pounds. I was a scrawny thing. I had worms in my stomach, lice in my hair, boils all over me and I was full of scars. I wasn’t a pretty sight. But the man came over to me and he rattled off something in English and I looked up at him. And then he took this huge hand of his and he laid it on my face. What was he saying? He was saying, “I want this child. This is the child who I want.”
Then an incredible thing happened with that little nine-year-old Korean girl. An amazing thing happened at that moment. As that man was reaching out to her, she recalls, “The hand on my face felt so good and inside I said, ‘Keep that up, don’t let your hand go.’ But nobody had ever showed that kind of affection to me before and I didn’t know how to respond.” She said, “I yanked his hand off my face and I looked up at him and I spit at him and then I ran away.”
Can you imagine that? Here’s her window of opportunity. Here’s her future. Here’s hope and what does she do? How does she respond? She spits at him and she runs away.
The next day they came back to the orphanage. And because they understood what was behind that little girl’s hurt and they understood the trauma she had gone through and all these things she had suffered, they understood all that and in spite of her initial rejection of them, they looked at all the children in the orphanage and they went back to that little girl, the one who spit in their eye, and they said, “We still want this child.” And they adopted her. They cleaned her up and they got her the medical attention that she needed. They raised that child like she was their own. She’s married today and she’s a follower of Jesus Christ…
That little scrawny 9 year old girl ... with lice, boils and worms ... who pulled her hand away ... who spit at them ... and ran away ... she mattered to that American couple ... she was valuable to them … they desired to take her home … “Ollie, Ollie, outs in free”
What does God want us to do with this message?
Firstly, He wants us to stop hiding ... why? ... because we matter to God ... we’re valuable in His eyes ... and there’s nothing He would like better than to clean us up… give us all the attention we need and take us home.
And secondly the message the resurrected Jesus was so anxious to impart to his disciples 2000 years ago in Galilee.... Start being Christ to the people of this world!
You see, in many ways our world is just one huge orphanage. Full of people ... we work with them, live with them; go to school with them ... who need to know that it is safe for them to come out of hiding to … come home