"There is no one too lost to be found, no misplaced soul too far from God’s reach," writes the author. Photo by Kit Suman on Unsplash.
I ran away once as a kid. I was mad about something 10-year-olds get mad about – mad enough that I had to step up my normal fit or else risk being interpreted as only typically mad. The most untypical thing I could think to do was to pack a backpack of snacks and books and run away.
So I ran to the backyard, climbed into my tree fort, and sat fuming in the snow.
After an hour or so, I decided it was time to go home. I was sure my parents were worried, troubled at the thought of me being lost and alone. I was also out of snacks, freezing, and beginning to see that my brilliant plan was riddled with inconveniences. So I made the long trek back to the house, expecting a reunion of apologies and hot cocoa. After all, to them, I was lost and now found, and this seemed a necessary occasion to celebrate.
I converged, however, on a much less climactic scene. Nobody had even noticed I was missing.
The Greek word for “lost” is best understood, as “not in the right place.”
And when no one is looking for you, it loans a hopeless dimension to being lost.
In the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus enters a big scene only to be largely ignored. He was trying to join the crowd that had gathered to see Jesus as he passed through Jericho. Zacchaeus was a small man, but he was also the chief tax collector, and so he was chiefly despised. The walls of men and women who blocked his view were excluding more than a man of diminutive stature; they were shutting out a man of depravity, wealth, and corruption. So Zacchaeus climbed a tree.
The rest of the story is well known. Zacchaeus was sitting inconspicuously in a tree when Jesus walked by, looked up, and called him down. At Christ’s invitation, the morally bankrupt, socially shunned tax collector came down from the tree and his life took a dramatic turn. At the conclusion of their time together, Jesus proclaimed, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Zacchaeus had been found.
The Greek word for “lost” in this passage is best understood, not as doomed or damned as we often interpret, but “not in the right place”.
The effect is that the finality of lostness is somewhat assuaged. Someone is looking for the misplaced coin or the sheep that has gone astray. Someone is looking in a way that he wouldn’t if he thought it was gone forever. What is lost and in the wrong place is being sought by the one who knows the right place.
What is lost is missed. As I discovered as a 10-year-old, it is this quality that makes all the difference.
Prior to meeting Jesus, like those of us displaced by sin, banished in judgment, or lost in anger or fear, Zacchaeus was in the wrong place. But he was not beyond the saving arm of God. He was lost, but there was Someone looking. He was out of place, but not out of reach.
God knows where we are, now, and Christ is always looking.
Jesus did not come to confirm customary exclusions, nor to endorse social and spiritual hierarchies. Immediately before his encounter with a man lost in wealth and corruption, Jesus came beside a man lost in blindness and poverty. Immediately after his iconoclasm in the life of Zacchaeus, Jesus came beside teachers lost in the idolatry of religion. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
There is no one too lost to be found, no misplaced soul too far from God’s reach. God knows where we are, now, and Christ is always looking.
Despite his way of life up to this point, Zacchaeus was not to be cut off from the people of God. “This man, too, is a son of Abraham,” said Jesus.
And His words seemed to be spoken as much to the crowd who shunned the sinner as to the sinner himself.
This article was first published on A Slice of Infinity, a ministry of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and has been republished with permission.
Reflection and Discussion
- Jesus proclaimed: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Do you feel lost, unnoticed or far away? Take a few moments return to the God who sees you, knows you and is seeking you.
- “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Who are the other “sons of Abraham” in your life who need to know the gospel of Christ? Pray for them today.