The Parable of the Lost Jetliner

In one of Jesus’ most famous sermons, He told three different parables about things that were lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15). If He was giving the same sermon today, He probably would add the Parable of the Lost Jetliner.

The facts of the story would already be well known. A commercial Boeing 777 carrying 239 people suddenly vanished from the sky. Despite pervasive modern technology such as radar, communication satellites, and Google Earth, the simply plane could not be found. Debris sighted in the ocean turned out to be a false alarm, having nothing to do with the missing jetliner. Black box “pings” were heard at times, but then the batteries apparently went dead.

People all over the world were captivated by the story. Everyone loves a good mystery, after all.

Video clips of anguished family members were shown by cable news. Unbelievable pain, anger, and confusion fueled tears and tortured screams.

Oh, what love…what loss…what agony.

Meanwhile, TV pundits and aviation experts spouted never-ending theories on what could have happened. Was terrorism involved? Did one of the pilots take the plane on a suicide mission? Was there some kind of catastrophic electrical failure? Had the plane been hijacked and landed in some remote location? One CNN anchor even asked if a black hole might have been involved!

After more than a month of fruitless searching for the hapless jetliner, billions of dollars had been spent by countless countries and humanitarian organizations. But despite the focus of the entire world and a massive outlay of resources, the plane and its 239 people remained LOST.

At this point in the parable, Jesus would segue to some personal applications for His followers. In particular, He would note a strange fact: While people around the world devoted enormous time, money, and technology to recover a lost plane and 239 lost people—people who were already dead—there were hundreds of thousands of LOST people in every major city in the world. “Where is the passion, anguish, and commitment to find and rescue those  lost people?” He would ask.

Jesus then might remind us that when He stated HIS mission statement, He was also giving us OUR mission statement as His followers: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”  (Luke 19:10). I don’t think He was referring to lost jetliners. He meant people—sinners in need of a Savior.

Shouldn’t we be challenged to have the same kind of anguish for lost souls as the relatives have for their loved ones who were on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? Shouldn’t our devotion to rescue the perishing surpass the energy and resources shown by the search teams combing the Indian Ocean? Where are our tears for the lost people all around us?