Dear children of God, baptized of God. Jesus receives sinners. And we notice right away that it’s an all-inclusive statement. No sinner is excluded, no matter how great, and no matter how far one has strayed.
There is hope, and there is salvation for even the greatest of sinners. Last Sunday we heard the invitation to all sinners, “Come; for all things are now ready.” There is room in heaven for even the greatest of sinners, just as there was room for the thief on the cross, and even for Paul who had committed murder.
Scripture is clear, there is joy in heaven, over one sinner, over every sinner who repents. That is the primary concern. Not how much of this world’s fame and fortune and wealth I can get my hands on – for what shall it profit a man if he gains he whole world and yet loses his own soul.
In today’s lesson we see the value God places on each and every soul. His heart longs for not one single soul to perish.
What mother and father, whose child goes missing, would not leave everything behind, and go, and search, and seek, the whole world if necessary, until all that is lost, is found? That is love, unconditional love. Yet, Jesus speaks of a love even greater.
He paints a picture so that everyone can understand. What shepherd would not leave the 99 in his flock, and go, and search, and seek, until all that is lost, is found? Yet, He really isn’t talking about an earthly sheep or an earthly shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep, and we all are that one sheep, for which the search would not end, until all that is lost, is found.
“For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.”
Jesus is painting a picture of God’s heart, how above all, He wants all to come to repentance and faith. That’s why He sent His Son.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus did not come to condemn sinners, He came to receive them, and to save them.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
The Scribes and Pharisees were those who thought they needed no repentance. They murmured, they grumbled, they complained - they were offended that Jesus was eating with sinners. Yet, if Jesus never ate with sinners, wouldn’t He have always been eating alone?
The same belief is held today. Many think church is for the goody people, the goody two shoes, the upright, the godly. But Scripture says, “Christ died for the ungodly.”
So even the vilest of sinners can find peace with God in the forgiveness of their sins because “He died for all.” And,“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” No one should think he has gone too far, or that there is no more hope for him. “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Even the greatest of sinners can put their trust in Christ to be their Savior both now and forever. By the power of His Word and Spirit He can and does work true repentance and faith in the heart, and then good works are sure to follow.
Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus received only those who sinned a little. Even the harlots and the tax collectors (who were thieves), even the thief on the cross, who apparently spent his whole life in disobedience, yet, at last repented, all these and more, Jesus receives.
“Here is hope for all who grieve-Jesus sinners doth receive” (The Lutheran Hymnal: 324). No matter how great our sins have been, Jesus receives us. Dear baptized of God, this is your Baptism, this is what you have in your Baptism, the pure Gospel of the forgivness of sins. This is what you have in the true body and blood of Christ – given and shed for you for the remission of sins. Jesus receives sinners.
But let us never think, I’m glad I’m not as bad as that other guy. But when we hear of a criminal on the news who really went wrong, that’s exactly what we have thought. I’m glad I’m not that bad. Yet, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” No matter how sincere I’ve been, and no matter how much time I’ve spent in the church, no matter how much time and talent and money I’ve donated, salvation is still by God’s free grace alone in Jesus Christ. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
We all must confess, “I am the chief of sinners.” But that is exactly why Jesus came, to save sinners, just like you and me. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
This weekend we celebrated 238 years of independence from British rule. God be praised for the many freedoms He’s given to us in our independence, here in the land of the free.
Yet an ever growing belief is that we are free to do whatever we please, and however we please. We do well to remember we are but sinners, in constant need of repentance. “Well come on God is not so harsh that He would condemn me. He understands the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, even if it does contradict His Word”.
Yet, Jesus died for sinners, not so that we could get comfortable with our sin, but to deliver us from it, and to give us true repentance and faith by the power of His Word and Spirit working in us.
By the aid of His Spirit, we can and we do turn from our sins. It’s not something we do alone. We find the strength in our Baptism, in the Word, in the Lord’s Supper. We find grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. For He receives sinners. In His name. Amen.