Jesus Sinners Doth Receive
September 15, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Luke 15:1–15:2
Christ Lutheran Church
September 15, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Jesus Sinners Doth Receive
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were gathering near to Jesus to hear him, but the Pharisees and the Scribes complained, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:1-2)
Last week the Lord taught us about baptism when he said that if any man wants to become his disciple, to be baptized that is, he must hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, his very life, take up the cross and follow him.
The Lord’s teaching there emphasized how completely baptism changes and remakes us. We who were once begotten of human fathers, and born of human mothers, are now begotten by heavenly Seed, and born anew of Mother Church in the amniotic water of baptism.
There is nothing more radical than that, no greater change a person could undergo.
No doubt you have heard people say, “If only I could start again with a clean slate” But that is exactly what happens when a man turns to the Lord. You are born into a new, different, better and blessed life of unlimited length and capacity, and to things as yet unimagined.
Just as a newborn baby is not the end of the story, but only the beginning, even so baptism is only the beginning of our new life and not its fullness. St. John says it like this, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:1)
Because of this revolutionary change Jesus counsels those who would be baptized to count the cost. Because when you take up residence inside of Christ you will be totally remade. St. Paul says it like this, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new is come.” (2 Cor 5:17) You will no longer be content with your old self, or with the futility of the world and its vain pursuits, but you will regret your sins, yearn to be like Jesus and to have the mind of Christ.
But far from hating anyone, fervent love of family and even of your enemy, is the chief signifier of life in Christ. This is what Jesus taught us on Holy Thursday, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)
And so what priceless treasure is it that induces us to run to the font, race to the altar and seek to make Christ the sum and substance of our lives? To take up the cross; renounce the devil; follow Jesus through life and confess with our dying breath: “O grave where is your victory, O death where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:55)
The question is answered in verse 2 of today’s gospel, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” That is the prize. To be elevated to the seat of honor, and eat at the highest table with Jesus. To feed on him now at this holy altar, and ascend with him through endless ranks, of rejoicing angels, to the wedding feast of the Lamb that has no end.
How great is the prize? The question cannot be answered in five words or five minutes. But if you want to get a glimpse of “the good things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9) you must look where the answers are found.
You must delve into the prophecies of Isaiah. The promises of Jesus. The Revelation of St. John. The great liturgies of the church. The inspired music of men like Bach, Handel, Telemann and Mendelssohn. The sacred art and architecture of the ages. And you must study the faith of the martyrs, the lives of the saints, and marvel at the great sacrifices made, and works of mercy performed (still today) by the Lord’s disciples – all for his love, and in his name.
“Awake O sleeper and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!” (Eph. 5:14)
How great is the Lord’s mercy for sinners?
If you have not known it before then learn today that the full wages due humanity for its high crimes and misdemeanors against God – for man’s cruelty to man – were collected by Jesus on the cross – and that “the blood of Jesus his Son, (this blood on the altar), purifies us from every sin.” (1 John 1:7). And now only one sin remains.
Just as Scripture says. “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)
But Jesus does not only receive the sinners he has saved into his love, he also eats with them, which is the sign of familial love and security and confidence like none you have ever known or ever will.
And so in the liturgy according to St. Luke Jesus says to his church, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me … this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)
And so he, himself, his flesh and blood given over for our sins, is the good pasture that Ezekiel sees in today’s Old Testament lesson. His cross the mountain heights of Israel. His church the good land where we dwell in safety from sin, death, devil and every enemy now and unto the ages of ages, so that our God truly is “all in all.”
Now if you are the 99 in the Lord’s parable who think that they have no need of repentance – you may not eat here!
But if you are “the chief of sinners,” like St. Paul was, then come!
If you have committed a thousand murders, and ten thousand adulteries. Come.
If you have wasted your substance, debauched your life and broken every promise -–but hear in today’s gospel that “this Man welcomes sinners, and eats with them, then come!
The church rejoices over you.
The holy heavenly host rejoices over you.
There is high celebration, merriment and music, praise and adulation, eating and drinking in heaven all because you who were lost, but are now found by Jesus, and restored to the image of your God. Amen