Holy Lord Jesus Churching Sinners!
Pentecost 17 Trinity Lutheran Church
11 September 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
St. Luke 15:1-10
I sure hope you’re not a salvation-of-sinners-party-pooper. In other words, I trust you’re not one of those 99 self- righteous Pharisaical and Scribal sheep who have absolutely no use of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and salvation. However, if you are stubbornly self-righteous, if you are a full-tilt / all-in justifier-of-the-self and you have no interest in having good use of Jesus being the Savior of sinners, including you, then I am certainly not surprised to hear you grumble, complain, and object to today’s sermon. In fact, today may be the day you call it quits to this coming to hear the Lord’s Word. If that’s the case (but I pray it isn’t) and unless you repent, you’ll end up where you’re going. And that won’t be good. It will be hellacious. I guarantee it. On the other hand (and I pray this is the case), you all may just jump for joy with me and all the angels in heaven when I tell you the good news that salvation has come in Jesus and that it’s time to not only repent but also believe in Him.
So, with that, off I go. Notice how the text begins. It’s a stunner. A shocker. “Tax collectors and sinners.” They’re gathering around to hear Jesus. And Jesus gladly preaches to them. He openly receives them as His hangers on. He’s having a church! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Jesus (Rom 10:17). And lo and behold His church is made up of believing-faith-alone-in-Jesus-“tax collectors and sinners” that cling to His Word. Hang on to His every Word as if their life – their eternal life – depended on it.
Really? Yes, really! Jesus freely and boldly hangs out with the losers. Bad pennies. Undesirables. Failures. Rejects. Flunkies. Degenerates. Reprobates. Rascals. Thieves. Adulterers. Idolaters. Sinners par excellence. Name the sinner. Name their sin. It is an all-inclusive forgiveness of sins and salvation dinner party with the Lord Jesus Christ. He eats with them. He fellowships with them. He is churching them.
As if he really wants to be there with them. As if He truly wants to be associated with the like of them. As if He’s God’s FOR THEM! As if He’s actually and truly there just for them — to be their God!
And He is! At first glance it should not be this way, should it? I mean, Jesus is the most holy God! The dinner guests are polluted and toxic — UNHOLY – full of sin-sinners! Holy and unholy should never go together, right? Most holy God and most sinful sinners should never be put in the same room let alone universe, right? The Most Holy Lord Jesus’ joining Himself to most unholy sinners is a most volatile mixing. Like throwing a lighted match on a pool of gasoline!
But that’s precisely His cup of tea. Lord Jesus is God! And He’s in the salvation of sinners business! Bullish on that! His one-track mind and heart is: SAVING SINNERS! So He does the only thing that can be done to give sinners salvation. He hangs out with sinners (a whole world full)? Why? Here’s why. He’s going to take away all sin from every sinner and then bear it all in His crucified Body. Absorbing it all like a sponge. Yes, He takes all sin (your sin) to the cross so that His sacrificed and shed divine blood purifies you and all sinners from the utter pollution and toxicity of your sin. From the sin that separates and keeps you from God! St. Paul puts it this way in his second letter to the Corinthians: “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Cor 5:21).
Yes, what begins here in Luke 15 and then climaxes on Good Friday is a great and blessed exchange. A sweet swap. Holy Lord God Jesus takes all sin – your sin. Consequently, He gets treated as maximum sinner on the cross. He endures the full hell fire-hellacious penalty of damnation in your place. In exchange He gives you, the unholy sinner, His holiness, perfection and pardon. Yes, this is how Jesus is God FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION!
So, as Jesus eats and fellowships with “tax collectors and sinners” He is doing exactly what He Himself promised to do through the prophet Ezekiel. In the ministry of Lord God Jesus the climax of history reaches its peak! The pinnacle of universal history arrives!
Indeed! The Lord Jesus comes “to seek the lost,” (Ez 34:16)! What He promised through Ezekiel now takes place: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out … I will rescue them … I will feed them … I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep … I will seek the lost,” (Ez 34:11-24)!
So there Lord Jesus is! Being God for “tax collectors and sinners.” Totally there for them! Being the Savior that He is! Gathering them around His savioring Self!
The twin stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin make it absolutely clear: LORD GOD JESUS SEEKS OUT SINNERS in order to save them. To bring them back home. Rebellious and naughty sinners are and remain His creatures. He has a Creator’s interest in them. They are still very precious to Him. So Lord Jesus, like the woman and the owner of the sheep in the parables takes all the time and trouble it takes to “seek diligently” in order to find and rescue dead, damned, lost sinners. Even if He has to carry the lost sheep on His own shoulders! Even if He has to move all the heavy furniture and sweep out every nook and cranny of the house. He will have His church. He will church His sinners! Lost sinners are still His lost sinners.
Now, I’m here to tell you the greatest news you could ever hear. It’s this. The Lord Jesus has found you, His little lost coin – His little lost sheep. That’s Good Friday. That’s Baptism where you were baptized into His Good Friday death. That’s the Sacrament of the Altar whereby He gives you His all-atoning-for-sin Body and Blood with the bread and wine so that you have the absolute certainty that He, as the one and only God, died FOR YOU and that all your sin is forgiven!
What joy today then! Jesus is God FOR YOU, dear sinners. HAVING A CHURCH! CHURCHING YOU! He’s repenting you today. Turning you from your sin and returning you back to Himself and His Good Friday wounds. So that you trust only in Him to be God FOR YOU.
You too are those “tax collectors and sinners” that are gathered around to hear the Lord Jesus. Remarkably, He admits you into His most holy presence to give you His holiness. Incredibly, He welcomes you to table fellowship with Himself so that He most certainly acts and speaks as Savior God FOR YOU WITH THE WORDS: TAKE AND EAT. TAKE AND DRINK. TRUST ME. IT’S MY BODY AND MY BLOOD.
To those words of Lord Jesus faith says: “Amen. It’s true! For even me!”
So at the Lord’s Supper today Jesus calls all his friends and his neighbors and says: “Rejoice with me for I have found my sheep / coin that was lost. I’ve holied them with my forgiveness. I’ve churched them around Me! What joy, great joy in heaven and among the angels of God over these sinners at Trinity, Murdock that repent and believe in me!”
In the Name of Jesus.