We don’t need to listen to the song “House of the Rising Sun” to get a clue. So obviously Jesus was well aware of their situation when sitting down with prostitutes and seeking conversations with society’s outcasts. Invited to a get together with people Pharisees and teachers of the law considered a lost cause, He told beautiful stories of hope and mercy in their hearing. The overriding theme of His stories was: “Lost & Found”.
Perhaps we’ve read Jesus’ short stories of “The Lost & Found Sheep”, “The Lost & Found Coin”, and “The Lost & Found Son”.
In the first story we read about a straying sheep which gets separated from the rest of the flock. The owner later realizes that the sheep is gone and calls a search party. After finding the lost animal, he puts it on his shoulders and carries it back home. In his relief he celebrates with his friends and neighbors.
In the second story the main character is a woman who owns ten silver coins. One gets lost. She proceeds to comb through the whole house until she finds that coin. When she finally discovers it, she is so happy she shares the good news with all her neighbors and friends.
In the first two stories the object did not get lost by choice. If anything, the owners felt responsible and were compelled to do everything in their power to restore the lost object. – Let’s pause for a minute here and think of millions of unspeakable tragedies where people are born into slavery, sold into prostitution against their will, violated, drugged and raped, without a home, without identity. Lost coins are unidentified objects dropped into the dark corners of this world and seemingly forgotten, but in all reality the Owner of the universe is reaching out day and night to get hold of these precious coins. And like the woman in Jesus’ story, God is not known to give up that easy!
In comparison to coins, sheep have more wherewithal: four legs to follow the rest of the flock, ears to hear the sound of the shepherds voice, and eyes to see where everybody is going. However, something distracted the sheep, and it got derailed. This is the story of people finding themselves on the wrong side of the track after unwittingly falling for an apparently good and appealing offer only to find out later that this was one of their worst decisions ever. The sheep may have been sidetracked by an aromatic meadow and got stuck there after suddenly realizing that everybody else was gone. The shepherd knows sheep intimately, and he also knows their preferences. He is well able to track them down. We too are dealing with a Shepherd who knows us intimately. If we’re at a dead end He knows why, and He shows us the way out.
The third story is harder to swallow for any law-abiding citizen because we are dealing with two characters who unlike coins or sheep should have known what they are doing. On one side of the spectrum is the wayward son who wants to get out and spend all his cashed inheritance, while on the other side is the second son who is begrudging his own life situation and is secretly envious of his brother. Both sons are lost in the sense that they are both not with their father. One is geographically absent; the other one’s heart is absent. At the end of Jesus’ story the geographically absent son comes back home after he lost all his fortune – not expecting mercy at all, while the second son does not want any mercy for his brother and also doesn’t seem to think that he himself is in need of mercy.
Here is the good news about God’s amazing mercy: whether mercy is expected or unexpected, or even when we don’t know mercy at all, it does not matter. God just is merciful. That’s who He is. He expertly retrieves us when we are stuck. He showers us with His mercies regardless whether we believe in Him. And He is even merciful with us when we don’t want His mercy. Mercy is 100 percent God’s doing with no human contribution whatsoever. That’s the beauty of God’s mercy.
“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl,
and me, O God, for one.” (Georgia Turner and Bert Martin)