Exodus 32: 7-14
Psalm 51: 1-18
1 Timothy 1: 12-17
St. Luke 15: 1-10
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
I’m a huge fan of ministers who go to the darkest corners of the world and provide their entire ministry to those who live in these less-than-favorable junctions. That includes pastors who preach the untainted pure good news to prisoners, addicts, those on death row, the homeless, and even the most tainted and demonic of areas such as outside Planned Parenthood and pro pedophilia draw shows. We need Christians preaching the Good News in these areas so that hope, joy, and the forgiveness of sins is provided. Yes, even the mass murderer who works at Planned Parenthood can be forgiven of his or her sins and receive the Salvation that comes only through faith in Christ. How would anyone know if no one went to them and preached the pure Scripture that life begins at conception and automatically have intrinsic value according to Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 9:6, Exodus 20:13, Exodus 23:7, Exodus 21:22-23 (which states that a man must be put to death if he caused a child in a pregnant women to die), Deuteronomy 30:19, Job 10:11-12, Job 31:15, Job 33:4, Psalm 22:10, Psalm 100:3, Psalm 119:73, Psalm 127:3-5, Psalm 139:13-16, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:9-11, Isaiah 59:1-5, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:41-44, 1 Corinthians 1:27, Galatians 1:15, etc.? My personal favorite is from today’s psalm, Psalm 51:5, “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”
At the same time, how would these people know that despite their sins, Jesus Christ still died on the cross to forgive them of their sins, in fact he died specifically for us? How would they know if no one tells them?
This is why on the flip side I have anger in my heart towards pastors who stick their noses up at those whose souls are too unclean for them. They come to find out that a parishioner committed a sin and decide to abandon said person in their sin, to let them wander aimlessly in their outer darkness. They avoid bad areas in the neighborhood that have the rough crowds. They hang out with the rich, clean, and upright, but to the poor and dirty and down-to-earth they treat them like scum and provide no opportunity of repentance. They abandon the ones who are in the most need of Christ in their lives, and thus prove themselves to be the scummiest of scums. I would say to such people, hang out with enlisted soldiers, people who swear every other word and spit dip at the most awkward of times and drink booze during down time; that would bring down their haughty barriers fast.
Do they not know that when Jesus came to earth He came for the unclean, not the clean. Jesus came to save the broken, not the all-ready whole. He came for the imperfect, not the perfect. He came for those who are filthy, not the pure. He came for sinners, not saints. When He came he intentionally hanged out with the outcasts and the worse of civilization. He did so because they were willing to listen and be forgiven. He hanged out with tax collectors and sinners. He preached to thieves and prostitutes. He was willing to forgive murderers and rapists. He was even willing
to preach and forgive the worst of society - the Pharisees and their scribes.
The reason is simple, Jesus came to save. What need is there to find a person who is already at home? Why would I clean a rag that is already perfectly clean? What’s the point in putting a bandage or taking medicine when you have no injuries or are not sick? Why save someone who does not need to be saved?
Christ’s entire ministry was for the lost, the poor in soul, the blind, the deaf, the unclean, and the wretched. He didn’t come here to lift up those who will already enter Heaven. He came for those who are unable to enter Heaven. He came and died on the cross for those whose sins prevent them from entering the Kingdom of God. Through the cross He takes on these very sins so that we may be spotless when the time comes. His death was our atoning sacrifice, for as long as we have faith in Him, then no matter what happens we will go into heaven. Jesus Christ humbled Himself to provide Salvation not to saints but to sinners.
So when the haughty Pharisees and scribes lifted up their noses at Jesus, grumbling, “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” they intended that to be an insult. Have they not read Scripture? If they have then are they not idiots? Do they not know that within the Laws of Moses that the means for forgiveness through various offerings are provided. Do they not have the humility to realize they themselves are sinners? Do they claim to be better than King David who sings in Psalm 51:2, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin”? Have they conveniently glossed over all the multitude of Scripture that
points to the promise of salvation? The arrogance of these foolish clowns! Are they not lost on the sheer irony of their own words? For according to chapter 14:1, this interaction is happening within the house of a ruler of the Pharisees who also had lawyers, scribes, and lesser Pharisees invited as guests. The words of the grumblers again was, “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” yet at that very moment, though the tax collectors and sinners were approaching the home of the Pharisees to hear the words of Jesus, the ones Jesus was entertaining and eating with were the very Pharisees who uttered this nonsense.
When the Pharisees grumbled that Jesus eats with sinners, who was He eating with at that very moment? The Pharisees; oh, the irony! What they say is still true, for all except for Jesus have sinned.
Now Jesus’ response to this arrogance was to provide a number of Parables. We read two today, and after said two, Jesus, in Chapter 16, provides some more parables only to end with the Pharisees openly ridiculing Jesus in front of His disciples and all the sinners outside listening. What was Jesus’ response? “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Jesus came to save all people because all have sinned, most especially the Pharisees, but how can Jesus save the Pharisees if they keep on pushing Him away in favor of self justification? He who justifies himself before God using earthly exaltation will never be saved because they don’t want to be
saved. Jesus wants to save the Pharisees, why do you think he spent three chapters in the book of St Luke giving parable after parable to them specifically? He’s trying to open their eyes to the reality that they can’t save themselves. Jesus, who is the good shepherd, has come to find those who are lost sheep to save them. Jesus, who is the most pure and righteous, who is God incarnate, humbled Himself through the most humbling of means, martyrdom, so that through Him we, who are all lost sheep, will be saved.
Jesus is the good shepherd who abandons his 99 good sheep who are saved to search far and wide through thick and thin to find one sheep that is lost and confused. He does not stop looking for the sheep because he knows that the others are safe, but that this one little sheep is in dire need of being found. Does the shepherd gather his friends and rejoice over the 99 that are already found? No! He gathers them for the one that was lost but is now found. The same applies to Christ, for all of Heaven rejoices when one sinner repents. All the angels and archangels, seraphim and cherubim, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and all the company of saints in Heaven rejoice with a fanfare of trumpets and loud cheer and endless feasts for one sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ. Their rejoice is more rambunctious and filled with mirth over one sinner who is saved than 99 who are already saved. In fact, there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents then a thousand who need no repentance, even a million!
Again, you see, Jesus did not humble himself for those who are already saved or claim they are saved through their own
works. Jesus died to save those who can’t save themselves. The same applies to justification, which is but another word for saved in this context. Jesus did not come to justify those who claim to already be justified or who are justifying themselves through worldly means. Jesus came to justify those who are unjust.
Additionally, before any Christian boldly proclaims that he or she is not as sinful as Lutherans traditionally make every fallen human to be, a question - who do you believe was the greatest Christian? Of all Christians, who deserves most to be at Jesus’ right hand? I would boldly wager St Paul, yet pay attention to his words in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul was so humble that he, multiple times, claimed to be the Chief of Sinners. Paul is saved because he had the humility to accept Jesus Christ not only as God but also as His Savior.
And to those who do likewise, who boldly claim that they are sinners but even more boldly claim that they have faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, to you I say, with 100% confidence, I don’t care what your background is or what you’ve done in your life, you are saved!
Praise be to God! Amen.