Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” NRSV.
Intro I've been reading the books of the prophets at the end of the Old Testament. Zechariah stands out for me as someone who though looking back also looks forward. He is concerned about his beloved Jerusalem and its people. I believe he has something to say to those of us who are concerned about the faith and the Church. I believe that we can look ahead by using these three words: Rescue, Renew & Restore.
Rescue! “Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3:2b Zechariah is talking about Joshua the High Priest, whom the prophet thought was the hope of Israel. God, he maintains has rescued this special person to do great things for his people. It is a telling description – to be saved from the fire. No wonder the first Christians, who must have read these same words avidly, would have seen the connection to Jesus. Joshua in Greek becomes Jesus, who in the book of Hebrews is also called the great High Priest. Luke tells us that Jesus “came to seek out and save the lost.”
As we look ahead, it seems to me that we should not neglect the work of reaching out to others. There are people, special to God, who perhaps, need to be used by Him in the world and in the Church. The “stick snatched from the fire”, is a graphic reminder of how precious people are to the will of God.
Renew! “Take off his filthy clothes.” Zechariah 3:4b As the prophet looks back, he knows that the religious life of the city and its Temple needs to be renewed. The leadership must be clothed, so to speak, with righteousness and just actions. The message is clear. God can purify his people, worshippers and priests alike.
Not surprisingly, what applied to ancient Israel can also apply to the Christian Church. This should be obvious to us, since it is through repentance and the cleansing waters of Baptism that believers can come to Christ. The prophet's message, therefore, urges us to be made holy through the power of God.
The future then, of the faith and the Church, lies in our desire to be made clean, to have a clean heart and to experience being clean within.
Restore! “I am going to bring my servant the Branch.” Zechariah 3:8b In Zechariah's time, the future was not hopeful. The position of Israel, like now, was still precarious. There were pressures from the north, from the south and from within. As a faithful spokesman for the Lord, the prophet tried to look ahead. Joshua, he believed, would be a Branch, that is, someone to continue to restore God's chosen people. The' Branch' implies growth and the restoration of Israel and its Temple.
Christians see an echo of this in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” We know that it is critical for the branches to remain connected to the main stem of the vine. This is a message we should take to heart as we look ahead to the future. The faith and the Church will be restored if believers stay connected to Jesus, if we, as we often say, are “in Christ”.
Conclusion Verses from Zechariah teach us valuable lessons for the future. The work of rescuing people from danger should not be neglected or played down. Only the Grace of God can save us and make us clean. Belonging, like the Branch, and having fellowship one with another is critical. Looking ahead, reflect on Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”