(Jesus said) "Even so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7
In 1994, Richard Wayne Landers, Jr. went missing.
At that time the police knew a great deal about Landers' case. For example, they knew he had been taken by his grandparents, who were upset by a custody case, which revolved around the boy. They also knew the boy was probably alive and well.
Just about the only thing they didn't know was the location of Richard Wayne Landers, Jr.
Last October, after 19 years, that mystery was solved.
Tracing a Social Security number, the police found a 24-year-old man living in Minnesota. The man, married and with a child on the way, is Landers. Under a new name given to him by his grandparents, he has been living in that state since his disappearance.
The police are glad this 19-year-old case has been laid to rest. Landers' mother is glad. It seems like everyone is happy. That is the way it should be. The lost has been found, and there is great joy.
When I read that news report, I thought in many ways the story of Richard Wayne Landers, Jr. is my story, and yours too.
You see, long ago, that is, when sin entered the world, humanity was taken from its original -- its spiritual -- family. We were lost, our name was changed, and we had no happy, heavenly home.
But then two things happened.
The first thing that happened is Jesus came into this world to offer Himself as the ransom for sinners. Through His life, suffering, death and resurrection, forgiveness and salvation were offered to all who believe.
The second thing that happened was the Holy Spirit called us by the Gospel and brought us into the family of faith. We who once were in sin were given a new and repentant heart. By God's grace we had been found.
It was a great event, which has been repeated hundreds of millions of times. Even so, each time a sorrowful sinner is brought into the family of faith, Jesus says there is joy in heaven.
And, I should think, joy in our own lives as well.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the hymnist speaks for us all when he wrote, "Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die, As the branch is to the vine, I am His, and He is mine. Oh, the height of Jesus' love! Higher than the heavens above, Deeper than the depths of sea, Lasting as eternity. Love that found me -- wondrous thought! -- Found me when I sought Him not." For finding me, dear Lord I give thanks. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries