Communication styles vary from one culture to another. If we are not aware of these communication styles we can misunderstand a text. One example among Jewish teacher is called remez.
Jesus entered the city of Jericho and encounter a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus who had been rejected by the religious leaders because of his profession. Tax collectors worked for Rome, and Zacchaeus, a Jewish man, was socially outcasted as a trader.
Jesus speaking to Zacchaeus said, ”For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,"(Luke 19:10). We hear Jesus saying that we are all lost (condemned) and Jesus came to give us salvation. But that’s really not what is going on here. Jesus is speaking a remez. A remez is where a teacher would quote a section of an Old Testament text assuming their audience's knowledge of the Bible would allow them to deduce for themselves the fuller meaning of the teaching. The background to Jesus words recorded in Luke 19:10 is Ezekiel 34.
Here is Ezekiel 34: 1-12,16: The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
When Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus “The Son of man came to seek and save the lost” he was communicating several things. To the people, he communicated, "I am the Messiah and also God." To the religious leaders, whose influence kept Zacchaeus out of the crowd, he said, "You have scattered and harmed God's flock." To Zacchaeus, he said, "You are one of God's lost sheep and he still loves you.”
Jesus’ words are a warning to religious christians who harshly judge and reject others. For the rest of us, Jesus words are a powerful encouragement that he is the God who did not come to judge our reject, but to save, heal, rescue, and restore.