Trinity 3 – Luke 15:1-10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Sacred history tells how a significant truth of salvation has resounded from the mouths of the enemies of the Church. Consider Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion. Saint John records his saying that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. John is quick to add that he did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Saint Luke records the words of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and one of Saint Paul’s teachers: Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with [the apostles]. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God! God used these significant statements for His praise in spite of the speakers.

Today’s Gospel is another instance of good coming from evil. What once angered the Pharisees that they mockingly spoke of it still delights Christians today. Their mocking words have become a song of praise to the merciful grace of God: JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS.

The Pharisees have the wrong idea about Jesus’ person and work. They refuse to believe He is Messiah, the Sent One from the heavenly Father. They refuse to believe that one Man is able to make atonement for the sins of many. The Pharisees also refuse to believe the depravity of human nature. A pious Pharisee would never dream of using the title “sinner” to describe himself. A Pharisee behaves like the chief of sinners but would never dream of calling himself chief of sinners.

Why would anyone want to receive sinners? A Savior seeking sinners is nonsense. Sinners should seek the Savior. If this is true, then salvation rests in our hands instead of Jesus’ Hands. Jesus seeks the lost.

The world looks at repentant sinners found by Jesus Christ and taunts them with the Pharisees. God’s mercy in Jesus Christ is foolishness. A rational human being is unable to do anything for their salvation. Nevertheless, God is hidden and man must seek Him out. Believing that man acts alone in working out his own salvation with God is a fragrance from death to death that Saint Paul references in 2 Corinthians chapter two. Nothing dead is able to seek anything living.

JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. God works in humble things to shame the wise. God uses the cross among His creation in place of the ways the world expects Him to work. The world expects God to break into our world to work some sort of showy, flashy event. Now we must emulate what He does to be saved from sin and wrath.

Looking at it from our heavenly Father’s way, it makes perfect sense for the Son of God to take on sinful flesh in order to reconcile sinners to the Father. It makes perfect sense for God’s only Son to seek and save the lost by becoming lost, last, least, little, and dead.

The three parables of Luke chapter 15 defend the truth that JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Precious lost sheep are scared of what might happen to them when they stray from the pack. The shepherd seeks the lost sheep. The shepherd carries him back to the flock, where there is great rejoicing.

Lost coins are precious. When they are found, we can’t help but rejoice because something of value that was lost is now found. If there is much rejoicing over lost sheep and coins, then how much more for lost sons of the heavenly Father? Lost things and lost persons found by Christ Jesus are a fragrance from life to life mentioned by Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter two.

In spite of ourselves, in spite of every obstacle we put in our own way of being found, in spite of despising sinners and elevating our self-righteousness above the Father’s perfect righteousness, JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Jesus also eats with sinners. He eats with us in this great feast of preaching and the Supper. Jesus seeks the lost among us neither to chide or shame them. Jesus does not ask them to jump through hoops. Jesus does not reject sinners. Jesus seeks the lost to draw them to repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The last are first. The lost are found. The least are the greatest. The little ones are precious in His sight. The dead live. JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS. Even you He has forgiven. Believe it for His sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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