For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Mankind had lost its way utterly, its way from the home of God, from the fields of truth, from the path of holiness, from the fountains of joy; was wandering, blind and miserable, in forbidden ways; was stumbling on the dark mountains of error and sin. And the Son of man came to seek this erring and lost race, to lead it back again, to restore it to its heritage in wisdom, in righteousness, in God. This great and most beneficent purpose is enough of itself to explain such action as he took on this occasion; it covers the propriety of the conduct which seemed at the time so inexplicable to the good people of his day. For on what more fitting errand could the Saviour be engaged than on that of saving another human soul from its sin and its shame, and lifting it up into the light and liberty of the truth? But there are three reasons which we gain from the words or the actions of our Lord which perfectly justified him (and would justify us) in seeking out and saving a lost human soul.
I. AN APPEAL TO OUR FINER AND NOBLER INSTINCTS. If you have a hundred sheep, and of these all but one are safely sheltered from the cold and protected from every peril, but that one is shut out, is away shivering in the blast, is exposed to the attack of the wild beast, is nearing the deadly precipice, - your heart prompts you to, leave those that are safe, and to go and seek and rescue the one that is lost. Christ's heart prompts him to find that human soul which is lost in the mazes of error, or caught in the meshes of vice, or starving on the barren plains of unbelief. The most generous instincts of our nature will help us to understand his action when he went to the house of the publican, or suffered the daughter of shame to come in penitence to his feet.
II. AN APPEAL TO OUR HIGHER INTERESTS. We should put forth that labour in the field of sacred usefulness which is most remunerative. But which answers best - attention to the pretentious Pharisee, or to the shamefaced publican? To forgive fifty shillings to him who will first dispute the claim and then think nothing of your readiness to forego it will not be so satisfactory as to forgive five hundred pounds to him who is constrained to acknowledge the indebtedness, and is filled with gratitude to you for cancelling it. To endeavour to convince the scribe and the Pharisee of sin would have proved vain and fruitless work; but to lead some guilty ones to penitence and purity was to earn unbounded gratitude, and to unloose streams of devoted love that should refresh the parched and thirsty soil.
III. AN APPEAL TO OUR SENSE OF DUTY. The physician has several patients; some of them are not very ill, and these have the idea that they know what ails them and what remedies will do them good; but there are two or three that are dangerously, perhaps desperately ill, who do not know what they should do for recovery, and who will gladly take his advice and adopt his measures. To whom should he go but to those who need him most and will receive him best?
1. Let us enter more into the pitifulness of spiritual degradation. Sin is to be condemned, and strong indignation is often a duty and even a grace. But it is also very pitiful. Whether we find it in publican or harlot, in the covetous man or in the degraded woman, it is a thing to grieve over, even as Christ our Lord did, with a generous compassion; to affect our hearts with a pure and even deep distress. And it' we should feel thus as we contemplate the condition of one lost human being, what should our emotion be in view of the multitudes who are sunk in superstition, in wrongdoing, in utter hopelessness and helplessness! When we "see these multitudes," should we not, like the Master, be "moved with compassion for them, because they are as sheep without a shepherd"? May we not well exclaim -
"My God, I feel the mournful scene,
And my heart bleeds for dying men,
While fain my pity would reclaim
And snatch the firebrands from the flame"!
2. Let us avail ourselves of every means for seeking and saving the lost: whether it be individual effort, or action in combination with others, or liberal contribution to the missionary institution, let every opportunity be taken to follow in the path of love once trodden by "those sacred feet." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.