The “Never Lost” World
In Luke 19 we find a well-known story about a man named Zacchaeus. One day, as Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, he came through Jericho and Zacchaeus wanted to see him. But he was too short! To remedy the situation, he climbed up in a tree—and Jesus noticed him! Not only that, Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house! Jesus goes and dines with a “sinner.” This was scandalous to the crowd. People wonder what he is doing! Do you remember what Jesus tells them?
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10, ESV)
Verses 10 captures Luke’s purpose for writing his Gospel: Salvation for those who are lost. It’s major theme in the Gospel. In fact, in Luke 15, another famous chapter, Jesus tells three stories centering on something that was lost: a coin, a sheep, and a son. In each story—people go to great lengths to find what was lost.
With that in mind, it is worth asking ourselves a question: Have you ever felt lost? This experience can take several forms. First, you could be physically lost. Maybe you are in a new location or you were driving and not paying attention. Second, you could feel emotionally lost. Someone hurt you. You don’t know your purpose. You were fired, your romance ended, or your favorite sports team did not make the playoffs! You feel like you are wandering in the wilderness without a guide. Either feeling is unsettling and they uncover a near universal human truth: we don’t like being or feeling lost. We go to great lengths to avoid it. We seek to live a NEVER LOST life. Nobody likes to admit they are lost—because then we don’t know what we are doing.
Are We Lost?
But are we really never lost? Technology has desensitized to the experience of lost-ness. It also taps into a core desire: We long to be found. We long to be known and loved. We were made to worship. The question is by what or by whom? What Luke shows us is that tell Jesus is seeking us, he is pursuing us, he leaves the 99 sheep just to find the one. But he is also going to show us that many of us don’t think we are lost. The elder brother in the prodigal son didn’t think he was lost. We miss our lost ness because run to other saviors. The mask our lost-ness. When you don’t know you are lost you don’t know you need to be found. You stop looking for help.
Luke’s Gospel is filled with people who don’t want to recognize they are lost. In Luke 18, we read the story of the Rich Young Ruler. He comes to Jesus with a question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18, ESV)” This is the question all of us are asking and answering at some level. What does Jesus tell him? Give up the thing that is most precious to you; surrender the thing that has controlling position in your heart—the thing you worship instead of me. For the Rich Young Ruler it was money. What is it for you? What is masking your lostness.
This is a central message of Luke’s gospel: Jesus Christ came to save lost people who do not feel lost; who don’t want to admit they are lost. Like the Elder Brother, Like the Rich Young Ruler. We are all asking and answering the question: How do I inherit eternal life? Jesus says—it is me! I have come to save people who are pretending they are found.
Know The Narrative
Luke’s Gospel is a theological narrative. Darrell Bock is almost a world-renowned scholar on Luke and Acts. He notes, “[Luke’s Gospel] teaches theology while recounting the events surrounding [Jesus’] life.” It has a different flavor than Matthew, Mark, or John—all of which read like biographies. In fact, Luke, the author, is one of the only Gospel writers who was not an eyewitness to Jesus life. Instead, he is a historian who undertakes a major writing project for a wealthy patron, a man named Theophilus. Luke’s Gospel begins this way:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, (Luke 1:1, ESV)
This verse, right at the beginning, tells you exactly what Luke is doing: he is telling a story of what happened with Jesus. As you read the Gospel, it will become clear that Luke has a goal: he wants you to believe in Jesus so that you may be saved from your sins; he wants you to know with certainty that Jesus is God.
Structurally, Luke has some natural breaking points, which our series will follow as well. (1) Advent: Luke 1-2 are about Christmas and the surrounding events. Those chapters will serve as the backdrop for the December section of our series. (2) Jesus Public Ministry: Luke 3-9 sees Jesus beginning his public ministry, which a heavy focus on his miracles. Essentially Jesus goes public and catches people’s interest with his teaching and ministry. (3) In Luke 9:51, there is a major turn. We read the Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus goes ON THE ROAD. The next 10 chapters … a major portion of Luke’s Gospel, is Jesus walking with his disciples to Jerusalem. This section is very parable heavy—Jesus tells stories and teaches his disciples as he walks to accomplish his mission. (4) Luke 19:45-24:53 Jesus arrives at Jerusalem for the final week, the crucifixion and the resurrection appearances. We are going to break up out series into these chunks so it will feel like we are moving with Luke through his narrative. And if you want to be found, he have to know the narrative in its entirety.
Examine The Eyewitnesses
Luke begins his Gospel by telling us he is compiling a narrative—he is telling a story. But he acknowledges, he is not the first one to have attempted this feat. We read this in Luke 1:2,
Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, (Luke 1:2, ESV)
It was common for historians to acknowledge those who had written before them. However, his use of the word, “eyewitnesses,” was important. Hellenistic, or Greek, historians required eyewitnesses when recording history—it proved its veracity.
As you read the rest of Luke’s Gospel, you will see an account of these eyewitnesses and several themes emerge from those encounters:
First, the POWER of the Holy Spirit is evident. In fact, the evidence of the Spirit’s work gets a prominent place in Luke, which sets him apart from the other Gospel writers. Mark mentioned the Holy Spirit 6 times. Matthew 12 times. Luke references the Spirit 17 times—and then 70 times in Acts! Luke focused on the Holy Spirit. As Jesus enters the wilderness to be tempted, we read this in Luke 4:1,
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. (Luke 4:1-2, ESV)
The Spirit’s work is evident. We see the Spirit prominent at the birth of John and Jesus in Luke 1. The Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism in Luke 4. If you fast-forward to Acts, the Spirit is unleashed at Pentecost. Luke discovered the supernatural work of the Spirit in his investigations.
Second, Luke discovered the importance of PRAYER. Throughout Luke, there are parables about prayer. Luke records the Lord’s Prayer during the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before his Crucifixion. Jesus is constantly telling his disciples, the eyewitnesses, TO PRAY! Prayer will be an important theme in Luke.
Third, people SING. Singing is a major part of Luke—especially in the first two chapters of the Gospel. In chapter 1-2, the action keeps being interrupted by song. Mary sings. The angels sing. Luke uses the word, “REJOICE,” more than any other author of Scripture. These eyewitnesses, who saw the Messiah, taught us to SING in response to God’s grace. When you know the narrative, when you examine the eyewitnesses—you discover the story is true and all you can do is sing in response!
Surrender To Certainty
We live in a world full of uncertainty. The stock market is up and down. Elections are more contentious than ever. Social media has caused a rift in friendships. Even medicine has taken a hit. It all exposes the reality that one day, if we have not already, one day we will suffer. Moreover, when suffering comes—where will you run? What savior will you turn to? So many of us run to idols, dead saviors who can’t help us. Luke tells us—turn to the only living Savior there is—Jesus Christ. How do I inherit eternal life? When you read Luke’s Gospel you know the narrative, you can examine the eyewitnesses. But, finally, the reason is to surrender to certainty. He concludes the opening this way:
[…] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3-4, ESV)
Why did Luke write his Gospel? So you may have certainty of the things you have been taught. Some think that Theophilus was a nephew to the emperor Vespasian—no friend to the Christian church. If it became known that he was a Christian—he would suffer severe consequences. Loss of finances and relationships—maybe even his life. Remember, Luke was written, likely, during the period that Nero was persecuting Christians. In addition, he is watching the Jews attack the Christians, especially the Gentiles, and he is wondering … is this worth it? Is it worth my life and reputation? Is it worth jail time? Is it worth losing my fortune and status? Is it true?
And in that context, he commissions Luke, to investigate, to research whether it is true. Luke writes him not one, but two volumes with a resounding—YES! However, if Luke is so clear, if his evidence is so compelling, why do we still doubt? Why do we still resist? Gary Habermas wrote a wonderful little book entitled, “Dealing With Doubt.” He highlights three categories of doubt:
Emotional Doubt: We might have an emotional connection to a problem. In this category, our suffering comes to the forefront. You might have trouble believing in God or the Gospel because, you think, he let my loved one die. He allowed me to lose my job. That romance never materialized. You don’t think God cares … so you resist.
Intellectual Doubt: Others are asking very good intellectual questions. These are important—its good to ask questions so we can find answers. However, for some, there might be some questions we can’t get over. We must look under every rock. While I believe that there are good answers, and Luke provides some, for faith in Christ—I’ve also noticed some people keep coming back to the same questions over and over again.
Volitional Doubt: If that is the case, I wonder if we are getting into a third category of volitional doubt. Because sometimes, even when we find all the answers … we still resist. And we resist because we don’t want to surrender to Jesus. We want to be king of our own lives. We are willfully resisting, not because we have an emotional or intellectual hang up, but because we just don’t want to give in.
What Are You Holding On To?
What are you holding onto that you will not give to Jesus? In Luke 9:51, there is a shift in the Gospel. Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem; he knows it will be his last journey. He knows he is going to the cross to this death. Just before they begin the journey, he starts talking about the cost of following him. Jesus draws a line in the sand:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25,ESV)
For first century Christians—death for Christ was real possibility. When they read Luke’s Gospel account this verse would have feel like a hard punch to the gut. While we, as 21st Century American Christians are not experiencing this level of persecution—yet—we are feeling more on the margins. This verse has more weight than it did even 10 years ago. Now, more than in recent memory, Jesus is asking us: what are you holding onto? You will surrender to something. Do you think money will save you? Do you think love and romance will save you? Do you think power and education and prestige will save you? What will it profit you if you gain the WHOLE WORLD but lose yourself in the process?
The reason Luke wrote his Gospel was so that you can know—for certain—that Jesus Christ is the Savior. He wrote it so you can know you are a sinner. He wrote it so you can surrender to the true King—Jesus. The one who came to save the world.
He came so you don’t have to be lost anymore.