For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
I wondered what God had to say to me when this verse popped off the page this morning. A little digging into the concordance for some Greek and the meanings behind it led me to an interesting insight: Jesus did not come to find people who had merely wandered off and lost their way (as the English would suggest), but to seek out and save from destruction those who would otherwise be destroyed.
First, the seeking. The word used sounds much stronger when all of the possible translations are read from the concordance. It can mean to seek in order to find; to seek a thing; to seek [in order to find out] by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after. There is much more intent and intensity in these meanings than the English conveys. Not only does it sound stronger, but the fact that it carries within it the intent to find is important. I have played Hide and Seek with nephews and my “seeking” is lackadaisical — I generally know where they are. Christ came to strive after we who are lost. We were His aim then and we are His aim still.
Second, the saving. The word carries the potential meanings of to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue. The imagery is less akin to someone playing Hide and Seek and more akin to a lifeguard looking out across the churning surf to find the person who is in danger of becoming a drowning victim. There is focus and purpose and an intent to preserve.
Last, the lost. Possible meanings include to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin; render useless; to kill; to declare that one must be put to death; to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed. This is not lost in the sense that I have most often read this verse or thought about a person being lost, but is, rather, in the sense of having lost someone to illness. The people whom Christ came to actively seek out and to rescue are those who under the sentence of death already; who were already dead; who were ruined and useless. Christ did not come to save people who just had a few things wrong with them. He came to save those who were effectively already dead.
I feel that I needed to be reminded that I am among those for whom Christ came. I was never anything more or less than utterly and completely damnable and damned until Christ came for me. I was, as the NT writers penned, dead in my trespasses and sins until Christ brought me to life. I was useless until God worked in me both to will and to do His good pleasure. As Ezekiel saw in his vision, Jesus Christ came to a valley of dry bones — so far gone that no one could even consider these recovering — and He bade them stand and covered them with flesh and sinew and clothed them with skin. Those bones were me. Let me remember where I was when Christ came for me lest I become proud and think I was something useful or worthwhile before Christ.