No one is a lost cause and no one is hopelessly lost, because Christ is a Good Shepherd who seeks & finds. His love inspires our love for ourselves and others.

The passage can be read below.1


The prophet confessed that each one of us is like a sheep; we go astray. We tend to leave the safety of the shepherd and the flock and we go our own way. Sometimes we stray by inches and sometimes we throw caution and faith to the wind and live long periods of our life not being attentive to the nudges of God.

This passage teaches us that God is always searching for us and rejoices to find us. The good news is not in ourselves but in the truth that God is gracious and kind and comes to us to save and shape us for good.

The Four Groups in Our Text

There are four groups of people named in this text. The first two are tax collectors and sinners. “Tax collectors” were held in contempt because they gathered taxes for Rome from their own Jewish neighbors; they were essentially helping fund the Roman occupation of Judea. They were also held in disdain because they made their living by charging more than what was due. Everything over what was paid was their profit. 

Roots by Barbara Elder

“Sinners” was a word used in Jesus’ time to describe someone who was not observing their faith. Depending on the context “sinners” could mean someone who has turned their back on their faith or who are not hostile toward their original faith. Though we might say someone lapses, the sentiment in the gospels is that these people are purposefully disengaged from their faith tradition.

Tax collectors and sinners are on the outside. They are not within the fences of their religion and they are on the outside of social expectations.

What should get our attention is the fact that although they are not deeply connected to their faith, they are flocking to Jesus. The people on the edges are Jesus’ entourage. They are hearing something from him that touches them and changes them.

They are wrong, though! No one is a lost cause and no one is hopelessly lost, because Christ is a Shepherd who seeks and finds. God’s mercies are new every day!

The second group that is often coupled together is the scribes and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a religious sect that took to heart the law that was given by Moses. They were eager to apply it to their lives.

Scribes were professionals who understood religious law and could draft contracts between people in a way that took religious laws into account. They worked through marriage and divorce contracts, inheritance plans, the sale of land, and the settling of debts. 

Folks Do Not Know the Good Shepherd

Since they were anchored in the Torah both in their spiritual formation and in their professional development, the scribes and Pharisees knew what to do if they sinned: they would confess their sin, demonstrate contrition, and offer a required sacrifice.

They also knew something else: nowhere in the law was there a sacrificial provision for those who constantly, habitually, did what was wrong. Therefore, to them, the tax collectors and sinners have no way back to God because they have no sacrifice to offer.

Here is the tension in our passage: the scribes and Pharisees believe Jesus is wasting his time and polluting himself by being with the sinners and tax collectors because they are hopelessly lost. 

They are wrong, though! No one is a lost cause and no one is hopelessly lost because Christ is a Shepherd who seeks and finds. God’s mercies are new every day!

Spiritually speaking, he is not only a Good Shepherd, but he is also a Thermostat!

Jesus is a Thermostat

A thermometer gauges the temperature of the room; it does not change the climate of the room. A thermostat gauges the temperature of the room and also provides what is needed to change the climate of the room. 

Jesus is a thermostat; he brings about change. He knows the temperature inside a cold human heart. He knows how to be present in a way that allows people to experience internal transformation.

Dr. Gabor Mate wrote, “Love is the capacity to be present with and understand and see the person as they are AND to accept them as they are and to invite them into your presence as they are.” 

Kindness, conversation, question-asking, idea sharing, and burden sharing, when done with the intention of love have the capacity to transform our moment and our lives. The act of having a loving disposition toward someone while they are in your presence has the ability to change them.

Christ meets us in our moment with kindness, where we are, as we are. This kindness leads us to change. Read about that here.

He stirs are better longings and helps us imagine what can become of us when we are in his hands. He renews our love for God and our interest in caring for our souls. He offers us grace and reconciliation. All the change he brings about is done from a place of radical, purposeful love.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Jesus meets us where we are, as we are, so that we may experience a love that seeks and finds us. God cares for us and looks for us. Though we often get ourselves in ravines and places that are hard to escape, Christ comes and offers us a way back.

As we sing in the hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” we are often prone to wander; prone to leave the God I love. Even when we love, we can go astray.

God never refuses to come to where we are!

God never refuses to come to where we are (unlike Jonah!). This is the underlying theology of the Incarnation: God came to us on our terms, to be where we are, so that we may be taken into the capable arms of the Great Shepherd of our soul. God never tires of searching for us and rejoices in finding us. Whether we are the “judgy” and unbearable ones or if we are those who have laid our faith aside for a while, Christ has come to where we are in order to lead us all the way back home.

The Psalmist in 139 writes this beautifully, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave; you are there! If I ride the wings of the morning and if I dwell at the farthest ocean, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night, but even in the darkness, I cannot hide from you, God.”

Our good choice is to not hide, but to call out and enjoy the presence of the one who looks and rejoices in finding! Even now, the Lord is seeking to bring you closer. Trust yourself into his capable care.

  1. John 15:1-10
    ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunesto make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ↩︎

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