Christ Seeks Sinners
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we all like sheep have gone astray, having allowed ourselves to be led away from the right path by Satan and our own sinful flesh. We beseech You graciously to forgive us all our sins for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ; and enliven our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in Your Word, and in true repentance and a steadfast faith continue in Your Church unto the end, and obtain eternal salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
7 “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
9 “And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying,`Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’
10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
The Pharisees complaint against Jesus was a bit tame. They could have certainly accused Him of more. If only they had a better idea of Jesus’ heart toward these sinners. It was more than receiving sinners and eating with them.
Do the parables portray people who are simply welcoming of lost sheep or a lost coin will just show up at some point? Definitely not! The shepherd leaves behind the 99 for the one lost sheep. He goes after it, not stopping until He finds it. The woman who lost one of her 10 coins doesn’t half-heartedly look under the couch to see if its down there. She lights a lamp, and she cleans and cleans the house, doing whatever it takes until she finds it.
Jesus shows them He’s not just receiving sinners and eating with them. That’s offensive enough to these Pharisees. He is doing more, He is going after them diligently until He brings them to repentance.
Such is His love for these sinners—these lowly miserable sinners.
These tax collectors and sinners were considered to be far below the righteousness of Pharisees. The Pharisees wouldn’t dare associate with them. Tax collectors were like traitors to the Jewish people, collecting taxes from the Jews on behalf of the Romans, plus they were thieves, taking extra to line their own pockets, like little Zacchaeus. And the sinners, likely harlots among other sinners.
They were the unclean people with a whole rapsheet of sins to their name.
They were unclean, miserable sinners like you and me. We have our own rapsheet of sins. We may not be renowned sinners like those gathered around Jesus. Our rapsheet may not be public knowledge, but if the multitude of our sins were published, if that rapsheet of sins were pasted to the front of our shirts, with all our secret thoughts and our sins done in private were there for all to see, how dirty and ashamed we would feel. What outcasts we would be. And rightly so.
Jesus has full access to your rapsheet. He knows your sins, even your secret ones. Who are you that He would come after you, seeking you out? What is that one sheep of the flock of 100? He has plenty of sheep to spare. Why would He go to so much trouble for one sheep? Or the woman, who lost the one coin? She still has 9 others. Why would she go to so much trouble for one coin? Who am I, a lowly miserable sinner? Yet Christ doesn’t just sit there to receive you. No comes after each one of you in His great love. Yes, He’s willing to go the cross, to take all of your sins, filth and shame and uncleanness upon Himself, and to suffer for those sins as though they were His very own. For you, that you may be His own, He gave His life, and takes it back up again. Through the preaching of the gospel, He comes after you, bringing you to repentance, that you repent of your sins and believe all that He has done to save you from your sins.
So that’s the story with the sinners. But what about the Pharisees? Jesus by His preaching was also devotedly seeking them out, too. But they would not be found, because they would not repent. In their own minds, they believed that they were righteous, and dared not have their righteousness tarnished by the sins of those lowly sinners.
Now we put ourselves in the place of the sinners Jesus’ received, but we must also consider that we have a little Pharisee in each one of us. After hearing the law just a moment ago, the Pharisee in each one of us was squashed, but beware that Pharisee come back again. Who are the sinners today that we think are below our righteousness? Who are the sinners that Jesus is going after that we find offensive? Might it be the homosexuals and transgenders? Surely, the LGBT movement is sweeping the nation and it is hostile to the Christian Church. We talk a lot about this topic, because it is a very real challenge to our culture and to the Church on earth. And we rightly resist the movement, and call sin sin. But in your resistance, have you also lost your love for these sinners, and have forgotten, or worse find it offensive, that Christ comes for them, too, that He died for those very sins, and that He desires their repentance and salvation.
Or perhaps, the enemies of the Church, those who hate the Church and persecute it, such as Paul before his conversion. We look to God for carrying out His justice upon the earth against all His enemies, yet at the same time, do we still love our enemies, love these whom Christ loves? Or has our heart grown cold against them as the Pharisees hearts were towards the tax collectors and sinners?
Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He suffered and died for every sinner in the world, and He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He is equally diligent in His desire to save you as He is to save your neighbor who has sins x,y, and z. Lest we find this offensive, we must repent of our own sins, of our pharisaism, and remember that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.
Again, this is our Lord’s desire, that we and all people repent, not speaking just of conversion, but of the daily repentance of our sins trusting in Jesus to forgive us all our sins and to keep us in His possession. And so we repent of our miserable sins and uncleanness, and of the self-righteous pharisee in each of us.
And though we are unworthy of His love, yet we find confirmation of His love in the preaching of the gospel, and in His holy Sacrament of the Altar. For through these He continues to come after you, bringing you to repentance, assuring you that He was willing to get dirty with your sins and uncleanness, even to suffer and die for them on the cross. He puts you upon His shoulder that you may have rest in His grace and free salvation.
With such great joy He finds you and holds you! And this is our joy as well, to be found by Him, and to rest in those hands pierced for you. He brings you into the communion of His Church, where He dwells with you, and where He brings you to dine with Him upon His body and blood. This joy of His is also your joy in all times and circumstances in life, whether you are burdened with your sins, whether you are lonely, or feel unloved, or whether you going through sickness or other adversity. Christ loves you, He died for you, He cleanses you of your sins, and He keeps you forever! Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.