Jesus Christ is the Friend and Savior of sinners. “Jesus sinners doth receive” is the heart and soul of the entire Word: Old and New Testament. Yes, Jesus not only receives sinners, He also seeks them, pursues them, and is full of joy when His search is a success.
The problem with pondering that phrase is that we put limits on it. Jesus sinners doth receive, as long as they agree with my faith, my politics, my favorite news channel, my favorite sports team, and so forth. We also don’t want to apply it to ourselves. Jesus sinners doth receive, but I’m not a sinner. Jesus sinners doth receive, but my sin is so great that He certainly will not receive me.
Our refusal to think Jesus would accept a sinner like me, or like anyone else, flies in the face of what Scripture says about God directing the evil deeds of people for the better. Joseph tells his brothers, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. The high priest Caiaphas says about Jesus’ upcoming arrest and death that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. Even Jesus’ own people cry out His blood be on us and on our children!
Let’s add the murmuring of the Pharisees and scribes to that list: this man receives sinners and eats with them. Yes, Jesus does receive sinners and eats with them. He receives you, too, but you will not receive His words to you. The funny thing about our Lord’s preaching in the Gospels is that Jesus saves His harshest words not for the rabble of tax collectors and sinners. He saves His mean streak for the scribes and Pharisees who seek to shut Him up any way they can. Come unto Me…I will give you rest. STOP IT! I am the Good Shepherd. NO, YOU ARE NOT! Let the little children come to Me. YOU KIDS GET BACK HERE! DON’T GO NEAR THAT MAN!
See yourself saying those interjections because you do say them. The silent inner monologue that goes on inside you whispers those screams all the time. You’re lost. You’re dead. You are of no account. Your conscience is so stained with guilt that Jesus could never offer the something for nothing deal to you. Jesus only deals with people who have their act together. Jesus doesn’t go after people who don’t first make a move toward Him. These are lies Satan wants you to believe. Your sinful nature wants you to believe that accusing voice.
Who do you see going after the lost sheep and finding the lost coin? Look close. No, it’s not you. No, it’s not me either. It is Jesus. Jesus goes after the lost. His love for sinners compels Him to leave His Father’s throne and enter the wilderness of this world. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, even lost sheep. That’s the cost Jesus is willing to pay to rescue you. You could make it a generic thing but, try as you might, there’s Jesus going after you. When He finds you, He lays you on His shoulders, rejoicing. 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.” He won’t let you walk home with Him. He carries you home, happy all the way.
Jesus seeks sinners. Like the woman who lights a lamp and sweeps the house, not giving up until she finds that one lost coin, so Jesus is relentless in seeking you. He will not give up. There are moments when we think Jesus wouldn’t waste His time looking for someone as callous as me. I’m nothing compared to the really coarse sinners. You are something because you are counted with coarse sinners. Jesus leaves no stone unturned. Even frequent ingratitude on your part doesn’t stop His search. He seeks you as if you are the only soul that matters. He seeks you not to get angry with you about you getting lost or breaking His commands or despising His Word. He seeks you to find you. When the woman has found the coin, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”
Some love playing hide and seek with Jesus so much that they refuse to be found. They play the game to their own detriment. They love the darkness more than the light. They don’t want to be found. Yet look on the bright side. So many others are found. An old preacher once said that at least one soul will be converted and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ every time a preacher preaches that Good News. As we’ve learned in the past, one is greater than none.
Jesus seeks. Jesus finds. Jesus raises the dead to life through His Holy Spirit. Jesus opens the eyes of the blind so they recognize their sins and also recognize the Savior of sins. So often Christians love that Jesus shines the light of His law so that we recognize our sins that we miss the ultimate note of preaching. The ultimate note of preaching is not God’s no, but God’s yes in Jesus Christ. The law of God is the handmaiden of the Gospel of God. The Law brings you to say, “Yes, I ran astray. Yes, I played hide and seek from God hoping He would never find me.”
Once you say it, the pit bull of the law stops biting. Then you say, “Now that Jesus has found me, I see why He went through all that trouble. In His light do I see light: the light of everlasting life, the light of sins forgiven, and the light of a happy conscience. I believe what Jesus says is true. He says it especially to me: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. Firmly in these words believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. In His arms that they may live: Jesus sinners doth receive. Let these words my soul relieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. For these words I now believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. Naught remains my soul to grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. Dying, still to Him I cleave: Jesus sinners doth receive.