Amanda Berry told the 911 operator: “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m here. I’m free now.” Most of us take our freedom for granted in this country. Most of us take our freedom in Christ for granted as well. We don’t tend to think about freedom until a story like Amanda’s is in the news. She went missing the day before her 17th birthday and most people had given up ever seeing her again. Sadly, her mom died never knowing her daughter was still alive. Amanda, her daughter and two other women are free today because of a neighbor who heard her screams and came to the rescue. Their abductor, a school bus driver, is now in jail. The neighborhood is rejoicing because those who had been lost, are found.
Jesus loved to teach using parables, simple stories with a spiritual lesson. Surrounded by tax collectors, sinners, disciples and the Pharisees, Jesus told two of his most famous parables. Luke 15:1-7 is the parable of the lost sheep and Luke 15:8-10 is the parable of the lost coin. Jesus spoke to a diverse crowd of people, and his parables applied to each of their lives with equal diversity. Chances are, you are surrounded by the same type of crowd that Jesus taught. What parables are you teaching?
Jesus said, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” After telling that story Jesus taught this one: “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I loved watching the video of the neighbors in the street, cheering for the girls who had been lost, and now were found. I wonder about the reunions the girls, now women, had with their families . . . the word “bittersweet” comes to mind. They have lost ten important years with their loved ones. Elizabeth Smart was interviewed about her thoughts and feelings upon hearing about Amanda Berry and the others. Elizabeth quoted her mom’s words to her after she had been freed from her captors. Lois Smart told her daughter that evil people had held her captive and taken nine month of their lives, so they were not going to allow them to take even one more day. They chose forgiveness and moved on.
That is one of the best definitions I’ve ever heard for biblical forgiveness. Spiritual freedom is forgiving those that have hurt you and stepping into the joyful peace that Christ can provide. Jesus told his parables, understanding the needs of the crowd around him. There were lost people who needed salvation. There were Pharisees who needed to understand how important all lost people were to God. And there were disciples who needed to persevere with patience until the lost came to know God. Everyone you meet today will fit into one of those categories. You fit into one of those categories.
I’m glad Amanda Berry’s neighbor kicked the door in and freed her from her captor. Do I feel that same sense of urgency over the people who are being held captive spiritually? We have an enemy who has not yet been imprisoned. I’m glad Amanda Berry and the others are free and this is a time of rejoicing. But, I want to keep the picture of heaven in mind that Jesus talked about in his parables. When is the last time you caused rejoicing in the presence of angels? Each of us is surrounded by a diverse crowd. Some are lost, some are pious, some lack enthusiasm for the work of evangelism and some want to be better disciples. All of us have the freedom to choose what we will say to our crowds. What parables will we teach today? Who in our crowds is lost and needs the freedom from sin that Christ offers? May the Lord author a parable or two in each of us today.