Search and Rescue

A few years ago I was the proud owner of an iguana. When I got him from the pet store he was maybe 12 inches long. My wife wasn’t really impressed but she helped by reading up on iguanas so that I’d know how to take care of him properly. I called him (or her - how do you really know?) Iggy (so original)! He grew to about 4 feet long and was definitely a fun pet to have around.

Iggy liked the sunshine and sunning himself in the back yard. His favourite food was green leaves from our bean plants in the garden. He didn’t like the dog very much and would use his tail to make sure the dog knew that they weren’t friends.

One day, while I was at work and my wife was at home, Iggy was left outside sunning himself on a wooden structure in the garden. Someone forgot that he was outside and when the old memory kicked in Iggy was nowhere to be found. I got the phone call while at work. Panic! I pretty much dropped everything and left for home early to do a search and rescue.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells three stories about search and rescue. He tells about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. I won’t talk about all of the stories but I will say this. When something is repeated three times in scripture you can be sure that there’s a strong statement to pay attention to. God wants you to know some important truth.

In the story of the lost sheep Jesus tells of a shepherd who owns one hundred sheep. Jesus asks the question, “Who wouldn’t, if he loses one, leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness to go after the one that is lost?” Jesus is saying that anyone who really cares for his sheep will immediately go on a search and rescue mission.

Here’s the thing. The sheep probably got distracted by something along the way and wandered off. He doesn’t even know that he’s lost, doesn’t know that there’s danger, and he certainly doesn’t know that there’s someone out looking for him. It’s no accident that Isaiah records that “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own” (Isa. 53:6). It’s in our fallen nature.

The Isaiah quote doesn’t end there, however. It goes on to say that “... the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” That’s a search and rescue plan! Jesus is the sheep owner that left the ninety-nine to seek out the lost. Luke goes on to say that when the lost sheep is found the shepherd throws a party and calls all his neighbours to come and celebrate with him.

There is joy in heaven when one sinner (the lost sheep) repents (is found by the shepherd). We all get a little lost sometimes. When we’re spiritually lost that is a little more serious. If this is you, all I can tell you is that the shepherd cares for you and he’s out looking for you right now. If you pay attention you may be able to hear his voice.

Back to Iggy. I came home but couldn’t find him. It was too dark and he was the same colour as everything else in our garden. I was home the next day so when the sun came up I had another look. I could see where he had climbed down the wooden structure and I could see the direction his footprints went. Imagine my delight when I saw him poking his head our of our pumpkin patch! The lost had been found and there was great rejoicing.