Several times in Jesus’ life, He shows that He was a man on a mission. He had a purpose, which He intentionally fulfilled. Even at a young age, Jesus knew that He “must be about [His] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49, KJV). In the last days of His earthly life, Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem,” where He knew He would be killed (Luke 9:51). It could be said that the fundamental mission of Christ’s time on earth was to fulfill God’s plan of saving the lost.
Jesus put it this way in Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus had just been criticized for going to the house of a “sinner.” Jesus responded by affirming His mission was to save people who needed saving. Their reputation for sinfulness was not a reason to avoid them; rather, it was a reason to seek them out. Many times during Christ’s ministry, He sought to forgive those whom the self-righteous leaders of the day shunned. He sought out and saved the woman at the well and the Samaritans of her town (John 4:39–41), the sinful woman with the alabaster jar (Luke 7:37), and even one of His own disciples, Matthew, who had been a tax collector (Matthew 9:9).
In Matthew 9, once again Jesus was criticized for “eating with tax collectors and sinners” (verse 11), and once again Jesus responded by stating His mission: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (verse 13). Jesus’ goal was to save. It was a goal that He reached: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
All through the Gospels, we see Jesus call to repentance and forgive the worst of sinners. No one is too sinful to come to Him. In fact, He goes after those who are lost, as the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin show (Luke 15:1–10). In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus teaches that God will always welcome with open arms those who come to Him with a repentant heart (Luke 15:21–22; cf. Isaiah 57:15). Even today, Jesus continues to seek and save those who humbly place their faith in Him (Matthew 11:29; 18:3–4; Revelation 3:20).