Many times, we are told to seek the Father, seek the Kingdom, and search for truth. And that is important counsel that should be taken to heart. But Jesus showed us that while we are seeking to find the Father, he is likewise seeking to find us.
When Jesus began his ministry, he gave his apostles instructions on how to proceed in this searching work:
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, giving them these orders: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”
– Matthew 10:5-6
They were commissioned to go to find “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” before they were to go to the Samaritan city or to the nations. The “house of Israel” was to be given priority in entering the Kingdom of the Heavens. Many Israelites who responded joined in the searching work which eventually spread to Samaria and to the most distant parts of the earth.
Today, most of the preaching and teaching work done by Jehovah’s Witnesses is to the so-called “gentile nations.” At the same time, we can apply Jesus’ counsel by going to the house of “spiritual Israel” since many of them have become lost as this system has worn on.
In this regard, Jesus gave three particular parables in consecutive order (Luke 15:4-32) illustrating the Father’s determination to find lost sons of the Kingdom – the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son. These parables, taken together, demonstrate the thoroughness of the Father’s interest in his sheep. Let’s examine each one and distinguish the relevance of each.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
“What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”
– Luke 15:4-7
This parable impresses upon us that the Father and the Son go forth to search for those who are lost as a result of wandering away unintentionally. This could include our brothers who were mistakenly, but in good faith, led away, pushed away or drifted away because of misunderstood or erroneous teachings within the congregation, those who did not have the strength to keep us with the rigorous responsibilities of sonship, and other similar reasons.
By way of this parable, we are counseled to go in search of all such sons, even if it means leaving behind the “ninety-nine righteous ones.” In order words, even if it means putting some matters on hold while we direct our attention to these unintentionally wandering lost sons of the Kingdom. It emphasizes the need to go searching.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or what woman with ten drachma coins, if she loses one drachma coin, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it she calls the women who are her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the drachma coin that I lost.’ Thus, I tell you, joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”
– Luke 15:8-10
This parable impresses upon us that the Father and the Son go forth to search for those who are lost as a result of pressures of life, and obscured by the dust of time and the accumulation of various material things. This could include our brothers who are lost due to difficult financial obligations, undue stress and depression, health problems, and things like these.
Here, we are counseled to go find all such sons, employing all methods that are capable of rendering assistance. That means assisting personally and financially, if possible. It emphasizes the thoroughness of the divine searching.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
“Then he said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the part of the property that falls to my share.’ Then he divided his means of living to them. Later, after not many days, the younger son gathered all things together and traveled abroad into a distant country, and there squandered his property by living a debauched life. When he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred throughout that country, and he started to be in need. He even went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to herd swine. And he used to desire to be filled with the carob pods which the swine were eating, and no one would give him [anything].
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many hired men of my father are abounding with bread, while I am perishing here from famine! I will rise and journey to my father and say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he rose and went to his father. While he was yet a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with pity, and he ran and fell upon his neck and tenderly kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quick! bring out a robe, the best one, and clothe him with it, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fattened young bull, slaughter it and let us eat and enjoy ourselves, because this my son was dead and came to life again; he was lost and was found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.”
– Luke 15:11-24
This parable impresses upon us the Father’s willingness to receive all sons who seek entrance into the Kingdom of the Heavens, no matter what they have done in their absence. This would include those who may have engaged in immorality and other forms of debauchery. And it emphasizes the complete restoration of lost sons into the Father’s house and his heart.
Notice in each parable, when a lost one was found, there was great rejoicing! The lost ones were welcomed with open arms and sincere hearts.
So we learn three things: (1) the Father wants us to be proactive in searching for lost sons of “spiritual Israel;” (2) the Father wants us to be thorough in our search and use all resources available to us to assist lost ones; and (3) the Father wants us to receive all who return with great rejoicing!
We may know of Kingdom partakers who were once associated with us, but who for various reasons no longer associate. If we can be of assistance, we should. As an organization, we must search them out. And for those who have wandered away due to erroneous doctrines that have now been or are being corrected, we have an obligation to do so!
We wonder how many of our brothers were turned away or wandered away due to the teaching that the doors to the Kingdom of the Heaven was closed in 1935. How many were shunned, oppressed or suppressed because of their heavenly hope? We pray that all such ones be contacted with the good news that the doors to the Kingdom of the Heavens are indeed wide open to receive all who accept the invitation to enter.
Those of us who have accepted the mantle of “Ambassadors Substituting for Christ” are encouraged all the more so to find our lost brothers.