I was at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, waiting for my flight in the lounge of Gate B6. Me waiting for a plane in Chicago is nothing new. But what was noteworthy was what happened at that gate while I was waiting. Before the passengers from my flight could board, the incoming passengers, of course, had to disembark. I had not expected to see the unforgettable, emotional scene that unfolded as I watched.
It was shortly after the Gulf War had ended, and soldiers were coming home. Clustered anxiously around the end of the jetway were a boy in a Desert Storm T-shirt, a little girl, and a wife carrying a flag with a yellow ribbon attached, and a friend with a vide camera aimed down the jetway. The wife was crying what must have been tears of anxious anticipation as her son was hanging on the corner of the jetway door, peeking down the tunnel. It was actually hard not to watch, and many people in the lounge were doing that just that - some were even wiping their eyes.
As more and more passengers streamed off the plane, the wife was fighting more and more to keep her composure. Then, as a flight attendant came out, the wife asked painfully, "Are there any more passengers?" She said, "Only a few." Moments later, as the last passenger left, that precious wife fell into a chair and melted into tears. I want to tell you, it was a heartbreaking moment. The anticipated reunion didn't happen. The one she wanted home hadn't come home.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Heartbreak at the Gate."
I can't help but wonder if there will be scenes like that at the gate of eternity, as we look to see if someone we love made it home. Jesus did all He could do to bring them home to heaven. Now it's in our hands to do all we can.
Jesus talks about His extraordinary effort to bring lost people home in our word for today from the Word of God. I believe He wants us to join Him in the shepherd's role in this picture in Luke 15, beginning with verse 3. "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not 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.'"
What's it going to take to have the people you care about in heaven with you? Well, it's in this parable. First, you have to "leave" the comfort of the flock that's already in. If all we do is hang out in our Christian cocoon with our Christian friends going to Christian meetings, the lost people in our world will probably just go on dying. Then you have to "go after" the lost sheep. That means spending time with those lost people where they are, finding common ground, building bridges into their life, looking for, praying for opportunities to talk about the Savior who has changed your life. Going after those lost ones means praying aggressively for them by name and doing whatever it takes to bring them home.
And you go after that lost sheep until you "find it." This isn't some one-shot attempt to show them Jesus - it's a long-term, long-haul, never give up rescue effort. And, humanly speaking, the eternity of someone you know may hang in the balance - because you are their closest link to Jesus.
And by God's grace, at the gates of glory, some of those people you know will be there - because Jesus cared...because you cared.