Sermon from September 15, 2013/ Jesus Receives Sinners
September 15, 2013
Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, SK
Jesus Receives Sinners
Vicar James Preus
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that 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 his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”"
A number of years ago when I was still in college at the University of Minnesota in Morris I traveled to Mankato, MN to visit my brother. During my visit I spent an evening babysitting my then two year old nephew. My sister-in-law suggested that I play a movie for him. I inquired my young nephew and he immediately answered, “Ratatouille! Ratatouille!” This Disney Pixar movie centers around a rat named Remy, who aspires to be a chef. At one point in the movie a restaurant kitchen is swarming with rats. While that might make us squirm to imagine, to children these computer animated rodents evoke no disgusted sentiment. The rats are cute. They emit no foul odor. Children don’t even consider their cleanliness. The rats are likable friends on the screen for whom children can easily sympathize.
In reality, however, those of us who have experienced an infestation of rats or mice know that these little critters are anything but cute, cuddly friends. Most people describe these rodents as most hated vermin. Mice and rats have no respect for private property. They chew on anything and everything. They make no distinction between their bathroom, bed, nursery, or morgue. They smell and their odor brings the worry of accompanying disease. No one welcomes rats into their home, let alone eats with them. And anyone who would do such a thing would be looked at with utter disgust.
And this is how the Pharisees and Scribes looked at Jesus and his dinner guests. They looked at these sinners as less than human. In fact, in the preceding chapters to our text Jesus demonstrates their hypocritical contempt. After Jesus heals a woman of a disabling spirit and a man with dropsy, the Pharisees condemn him for working on the Sabbath. Jesus immediately reprimands them by asking which of them would not help his son, ox, or donkey on the Sabbath. In our text Jesus asks them, who would not go searching for a lost sheep or coin. But the Pharisees and Scribes think worse of these sinners than an ox, donkey, sheep, or even a measly coin. They look at these sinners with contempt as we would at a pack of rats. And they complain against Jesus saying, `this one continually receives sinners and eats with them! `
Although the Pharisees and Scribes sought to condemn Jesus and his dinner guests, they ironically proclaimed the Gospel. `Jesus receives sinners! ` This is good news! Wonderful news! Jesus welcomes sinful people into his presence and eats with them. Jesus knows who they are. He knows what they have done. Yet, he loves them anyway. He welcomes them. He forgives them and he places his holiness on them as he would a dinner jacket.
Now we know who Jesus is. He is the true God, the Holy One of Israel. He takes away our sins and makes everything right. We look at the Pharisees as arrogant for daring to judge the One who sits at the Right Hand of the Father and who will come to judge the living and the dead. It is easy for us to judge these Pharisees. Even today, we like to label people Pharisees, so we can judge them. Often times people devoted to a Christian life are labeled judgmental Pharisees. But it was not their devotion to God`s Law that placed the Pharisees in the wrong. The Pharisees and Scribes were in the wrong, because they denied their sins and looked at contempt on the God who forgives sins. They should have believed Scripture that states, `there is no one who does not sin. ` By denying their sin, they rejected forgiveness that can only come from Jesus.
But you do not need to be religious to fall into this sin of self-righteousness. Many people attempt to justify themselves before others as the Pharisees did, but only God can make people just.  If we examine ourselves, we often realize how easy it is to see the sin in others and make excuses for our own sins. While God`s Word makes it clear that we are to trust in Him and serve him only, Christians place their trust in money, even to neglect God`s preaching and Word by continually neglecting worship. This sin is easily justified by the claim that one must provide for his family, forgetting that God provides. Couples dishonor the marriage bed, living together as husband and wife before God has made them husband and wife. They justify themselves with the slogan, `everyone is doing it. ` Those guilty of homosexuality are not the only ones who justify themselves by saying they are `born this way. ` `Boys will be boys` is the justification for the pornographic culture that thinks little of the highly sexual shows, video games, and websites that both young and old habitually view. “Gossip is only a sin if it’s not true.” Even children justify themselves by arguing that they can disobey their parents if they think they’re parents are unfair.
Without Jesus all of these sins have been justified in our own minds. But there is no real justifying without Jesus. When we examine ourselves according to God`s Word, we see that we have been the self-righteous Pharisees and we need to be those sinners who want Jesus to receive us and forgive us.
We should readily accept the fact that we are sinners. Because Jesus receives sinners, we can even take comfort in the fact that we are sinners. This does not mean that we should be content to be sinners. It is possible to jump from one extreme of denying that we are sinners like a Pharisee, to the other extreme of thinking sin doesn`t matter. We can deceive ourselves into believing that sinners are like those cute, friendly rats in the Disney movie. But our sins are not cute. Our sin is like a deadly disease. We need Jesus to heal us from this disease or we will die forever.
We need repentant hearts placed in us so we can place ourselves with the sinners received by Jesus. These sinners were tax-collectors and prostitutes. Tax collectors in Jesus time were despicable people. They betrayed their countrymen by working for the occupying Romans and worse: they cheated people of more money than the Romans taxed. The prostitutes brought shame to their own families and were a threat to other households. But these sinners did not attempt to justify their sin in their own minds. They didn`t belittle their sin either. They acknowledged it for what it was: a deadly disease to their very souls. By the grace of God they received a heart that turned from their sin and looked to Jesus for healing. Jesus joyfully received these sinners. These tax collectors and sinners did not look at the Pharisees and Scribes and say, `Well, they are sinners too. ` Instead they acknowledged their own sin, brought it to Jesus, and Jesus received them.
No matter what your sin is Jesus joyfully receives you. Not only does Jesus rejoice, but every being in heaven rejoices. And Jesus gives you good reason to rejoice. After you trust in earthly things like money instead of God to provide for you, Jesus receives you. When you fail as a parent or child, Jesus forgives you. When your impure thoughts and lusts conquer you, Jesus conquers them, pulls you out of their bands and cleanses you. No matter what your sin is, Jesus removes it and places his righteousness on you. You can`t make yourself righteous, but Jesus makes you righteous as a gift, because he loves you.
And Jesus doesn`t just sit and wait for you to make the first move either. Jesus seeks you out. As the shepherd, who combs the mountains and ravines for his one lost sheep, Jesus searches for you. As the woman, who scours her entire house for her lost coin cleaning every crevice, Jesus works diligently to bring you back to him over and over again. Our hearts are naturally cold as stone, but the Holy Spirit works through God`s Word to turn our hearts warm with life. He brings us to turn from our sin and to seek his healing. Jesus joyfully receives us and gives us everything we need to care for our souls. Jesus actively rescues us and feeds us spiritual food.
Because we are sinners it is easy to be driven to grief. Even when we experience the sweet relief of Jesus` forgiveness, our hearts are again driven to despair when we fall into the same sins again. Stricken with a guilty conscience we find it impossible to believe that Jesus will forgive us again. But that is exactly what he does. The hymnist articulates it beautifully:
Jesus sinners doth receive;
Oh, may all this saying ponder
Who in sin`s delusions live
And from God and heaven wander!
Here is hope for all who grieve:
Jesus sinners doth receive.
Jesus receives sinners, continuously. He receives them over and over again. This is what the Pharisees and Scribes accused of Jesus and they were right.
Here is a fact that goes against all human reason: we are sinners and holy at the same time. This is because our holiness comes from Jesus as a gift. He makes us righteous. Our sins are washed away over and over again. Jesus came into the world for this very purpose, to save sinners!
Jesus came into the world so that he could die on the cross for our sins. He took the sins of the whole world to himself and carried them to the cross. He bore the judgment from God that the Pharisees and Scribes wanted to place on those sinners. And he bore the judgment from God against the Pharisees and Scribes too. The sins that our conscience rightly convict us of are all washed away in Jesus` blood. And Jesus did this so that he could receive us with joy. It makes him happy to place his holiness on us. And it should make us happy too. No one can express the joy that will be felt by those whom Jesus receives on the Last Day. By faith we know that Jesus receives us sinners. For that reason, we can be joyful even today while we still battle sin. Our sin is a great evil, but because of Jesus our sin cannot condemn us. We can with joy proclaim with the hymnist:
Oh, how blest it is to know:
Were as scarlet my transgression,
It shall be as white as snow
By thy blood and bitter passion:
For these words I now believe:
Jesus sinners doth receive.
We know that we are sinners, yet we can live with great joy. How can this be? Because Jesus receives sinners. Jesus makes sinners holy. We can live today and everyday with joy even as we bear the identity of a sinner, because Jesus receives us every day. He forgives us every day. He spiritually feeds us every day through his Word and especially on Sunday morning when we receive his Word and Sacrament. Although we cannot see it with our eyes today, the entire company of heaven is rejoicing with Jesus that he has brought us to him. They joyously wait for that great day when we will join them in Heaven to celebrate our union with Jesus. So fellow sinners, be happy. Rejoice that Jesus receives you. Nothing can bring us greater joy in this life or in the life hereafter.
Let us pray:
I, a sinner, come to Thee with a penitent confession. Savior, mercy show to me; Grant for all my sins remission. Let these words my soul relieve: Jesus sinners doth receive.