“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” (Luke 15:4)
With each visit to our Cleveland Museum of Art, I make time to stop at the early Christian art exhibit. Inside are several ivory carvings about four to six inches in height. All depict a young beardless Christ. He is trudging forward, gripping the legs of a lamb hung across His shoulders. One might only imagine the impact on Christians in the early centuries, taught the truth that Jesus is the divine son of God, indeed, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him….” [John 1:2]
Think what it must have meant to the disciples steeped in their Jewish heritage, having drilled into their minds from childhood the image of a God so remote that one never dare utter His Name, a deity who deals with mankind through covenants established with select men, who sends angels when contact is required. Only a very few such as Abraham and Moses were found worthy of hearing and delivering the will of the Almighty.
Ponder over what those from Greek, Arab and other pagan backgrounds were forced to revise in awareness of the way that the One God in Holy Trinity was incarnate for our salvation. Their former deities either struck fright and terror in their hearts, or else experienced the same urges, emotions and passions as humans, only existing eternally either in the skies or on Mt. Olympus, sporting with humans as a way to alleviate the monotony of eternity. Even when Prometheus, Titan and brother of Atlas, that wily mythical benefactor of humanity, took it upon himself to steal from the chief deity Zeus that most precious gift of fire and bring it to mankind, he was punished by the deities by being chained to a rock on the face of a great cliff where each evening an eagle would devour his liver, only to have it renewed the following day. The gods were hardly the friends of humanity. They were to be feared, worshiped and placated with exorbitant gifts accompanied by a multitude of prayers.
Consider the joyful news revealed to Jew and pagan of the glorious awareness that the true God, One in Trinity, is like none of the above. Creator in truth, but not an uninterested aloof bystander disregarding life on earth. Realizing the plight of His creature blessed with the gift of free will without the commensurate wisdom to use it wisely, then having tried in several ways to return the creature to his senses and to Him, the Father sent His only-begotten Son to become Man, and to find the lost first male and female with their offspring, only to suffer the exorbitant cost of giving His own life in order to return them to the fold of paradise.
I recall an incident in my mid-teen years when after shower I was the last athlete to leave the locker room. I felt dizzy, overcome with burning fever. I fell unconscious just outside the exit door onto the practice field ground. Ever since, I have carried the vague recollection of my father having gone in search of me. He was roughly my height but some thirty pounds lighter, since he was living with cancer. He must have seen me from afar, but he was unable to drive his Chrysler onto the field. Yet he somehow managed to carry me to the parking lot. I awoke hours later in my bed. He passed away about a year later. That event happened sixty years ago. I hold many precious recollections of Dad in my bank of stored memories but none as clear and as meaningful as his awareness that I should have been home on time, then finding me and carrying me home. I awoke in my bed not knowing how I got there. Death will be like that.