Have you ever been lost, or has a member of your family been lost? I don’t know about you, but I find it is such an awful feeling. It can be quite a lonely and anxious place to be.
In my previous job before I became a minister, I visited many different companies in this country and abroad. I was fortunate enough to get a new car to use to drive to companies and to airports and it had a satellite navigation system. Now for those of you who have such a system you will know from experience that you need to be careful how you use them, they aren’t infallible. I didn’t know that, I thought they would know better than I how to get from A to B. So I needed to get from Coventry where I worked to Stansted airport to get a flight to Stockholm in Sweden. I was the main speaker at a meeting with a potentially important new customer. I would normally have travelled on the A14 and then the M11 to get to Stansted, but I dialled in Stansted airport on my new SATNAV and it said go down the M1 across the M25 and up the M11 and I thought that must be a quicker way. Except that it wasn’t and not only that it took me to a roundabout with roadworks on it that it didn’t know about and all the exits where blocked except the one I had joined on and I could only go back the way I came. I thought, no problem, I will drive a bit and the SATNAV will re-route me and it did, only to take me back to this same roundabout again and I was stuck and lost and panicking and already late for the plane. I had no idea where I was, I was lost. So, I rang my wife on my hands-free phone and said quick get a map out and find a way for me to get to Stansted from this roundabout. After many many minutes she finally managed to guide me onto the right route and I arrived at Stansted late and missed my flight.
The consequences were not good. The team I was working with in Sweden were not happy, we arranged a conference call with the Customer for the next morning, but the Customer was not happy and we lost the sale and I became an unpopular person, an outcast and I felt awful and quite lonely. Getting lost brings about such an awful feeling.
Well we can also find ourselves lost in our lives as well, outcast from the main stream, not being part of the crowd, it can be an awful feeling.
(Luke 18:35-19:10) Jesus comes to seek out and save the lost and here we have two examples of those who find themselves lost and are saved by Jesus and they both take place near and within the city of Jericho.
Jericho is a significant place, this is the place that Joshua came to when he brought God’s people out of the desert wilderness into the Promised Land. Here in Jericho is a flat plain amongst the mountains and the desert. It is the lowest and oldest town on earth and therefore the place of probably the oldest civilisation on earth. It is a fertile plain with natural springs forming an oasis. Jericho is surrounded by the Judean desert a place where bandits, thieves and freedom fighters controlled the paths through the desert to Jerusalem. You can imagine that this was a place of plenty, of food and drink, and sanctuary for God’s people lost for so many years in the wilderness of the desert.
Yet amongst saved people thousands of years later, are those who are outcast and lost, lonely and on their own. They are regarded as sinners, not suitable to be amongst God’s people.
The blind beggar on the roadside outside Jericho looking for some means of supporting his life. He hears the crowd and asks them what all the fuss is about and when he hears it is Jesus of Nazareth coming into Jericho, he seeks his face. Jesus reputation as the Messiah, the promised king in the line of David, has gone before him, his reputation that he is a man from God who heals has gone before him.
The blind man doesn’t sit there though questioning who Jesus is in his own mind, or hoping that people might bring Jesus to him. No he takes his destiny into his own hands and full of faith in who Jesus is he calls out ‘Jesus, son of David have mercy on me’ and even when the crowd tell him to be quiet, trying to keep him as the unworthy outcast beggar lost to society, he cries out again ‘Son of David have mercy on me’. He actively seeks the face of Jesus and is brought to him. Jesus asks him what he would like and his sight is restored and he is restored and he is no longer lost and outcast but accepted as part of God’s family, saved by Jesus Christ.
During our life we experience sickness and doubt and we may have people praying for us, it is up to us as well to seek the healing face of Jesus and put our total trust in him? Sometimes shouting out ‘Jesus, have mercy upon me’ is a cry we need to make and believe in. After all, he is a merciful God.
In this almost heavenly fertile place of Jericho, given to God’s people, there is oppression by the Roman occupiers and Zacchaeus, works for them collecting taxes. Tax collectors didn’t receive a wage for doing this job. The job would go to the highest bidder that is the one who agreed to return the highest amount of taxes to the Roman occupiers. To earn a wage the tax collector would take more money from the people than they needed in order to earn a living and of course many became very rich.
Zacchaeus though wasn’t a tax collector, he was the Chief Tax Collector in Jericho, the one who organised the tax collection and he made sure that he became very rich. Zacchaeus was understandably, despised, outcast and lonely. He was lost and he knew it. So he decided to seek the face of Jesus and there he encounters Jesus in a very personal way as Jesus honours him, a despised sinner, by eating with him in his home. The encounter saves Zacchaeus and he responds in a remarkable way by giving half his riches to the poor and paying back 4 times the amount he has defrauded. He is saved back into God’s family because he knew he was lost and he sought the face of Christ.
During our life we may well take wrong paths, we may well find ourselves subject to temptations in life. We have seen many examples in our society today of pursuing wealth for the benefit of one person and not for the common good. It takes courage to admit we are wrong, but seeking the face of Jesus can bring us back into his fold.
It was seeking the face of Jesus that changed the lives of the blind beggar and of Zacchaeus and some might say that this was only for Jesus time. But we live in the presence of the resurrected Christ who when ascended into heaven released the power of his Holy Spirit into the lives of those who believe in him. Peter and John filled with the Holy Spirit brought an encounter in the name of Jesus Christ to the beggar at the beautiful gate. This beggar was another outcast who is restored into God’s family.
It is in the name of Jesus Christ that we live and worship and pray and serve today. There is power in the name of Jesus as God’s Holy Spirit points us to him and empowers us and guides us in our life if we seek the face of Jesus Christ.
We live in a society today that looks at different faiths on an intellectual level and people decide to follow one or none at all. It is as though faith is a life choice and consequently people become lost and confused. But seeking the face of Jesus Christ is a life changing, spirit filling, saving experience of God our Father.
Jesus tells his disciples before his death and resurrection that they will be filled with the Spirit of Truth, whom the world will not know, but they will know and “on that day” he tells them “you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”. We seek the face of Christ and we seek his filling with the Holy Spirit which the world does not understand. There is power in the name of Jesus.
I have seen people come to seek the face of Christ in Church services, lost and in desperate need and leave as changed people. I have seen people come to seek the face of Christ lost and living in torment and in the name of Jesus have found peace and release. I have seen people lost in terrible illness, find a future and a hope in the name of Jesus. I have seen people lost, seek the face of Jesus and find a new life. There is power in the name of Jesus.
This is why we are encouraged by our Archbishops to pray in the name of Jesus Christ for the lost to come to know Christ and to seek his face. It will change our nation.
I check my SATNAV now when I go on a journey and I have learnt to seek the face of Christ in my life and the life of others because Christ is alive and his Spirit moves amongst us so we and others need never be lost again. Shall we pray?