Jesus came to this world in order to accomplish a number of things, and we read about them throughout scripture—some in Jesus’ own words, some revealed to us by the apostles whom Jesus had entrusted with the Gospel message (John 14:26, Matt. 10:27).
But there was one particular mission that Jesus seemed to embrace with every moment of his life, maybe because he knew that those moments were limited. It was simply this:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Luke 19:10
He continually sought out (as we will discuss throughout this series) and engaged those people who most needed him. When the disciples found him speaking to a woman at the well in Sychar when he (presumably) should have been focused on how hungry he was, he responded:
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. — John 4:34-36
Jesus sought the sinner when others did not
As with everything, Jesus referenced the work given to him by the Father. But with Jesus, it was never strictly about obedience. It was a genuine love and concern for those whom he had no doubt watched for a long time. People who were struggling in their walk with God. People who had given up altogether and were walking away. People who were so removed from a knowledge of God that they wouldn’t know how to return even if they wanted to!
And let’s not forget the people who were no longer welcome to return, at least not in the eyes of many in the religious community.
As Jesus told the religious leaders of the day, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
All of us needed a savior, even the “righteous”
It’s worth noting that while Jesus often referred to those who were healthy, the reality as we learn in scripture is that none of us are truly healthy outside of Christ. There were many men and women in Judea at the time of Christ who were striving faithfully to serve God, and that had a true love for Him. But they still needed a savior, just as we all do today. Isaiah, in predicting the suffering savior, makes it clear that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Some were already at the doorstep, setting their mind on the kingdom and waiting patiently for their deliverer (Luke 2:25, Mark 15:43). And some had to be found and coaxed back to the fold. Jesus knew where his efforts were best spent.
He didn’t ignore or push aside the people who had already come to him, and in fact continually encouraged them, saying “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father speaks as the voice of God to the indignant brother saying “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).
But, he adds, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.”
Taking up the seeker’s mantle
The message to the disciples and to us would seem to be that if our Lord was so consumed with concern over the souls of the lost, then we ought to feel that way, as well.
Paul wrote about this mission’s passing from Jesus to his apostles:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Have we taken up the mission which has been passed on to us?