Prayer and Preaching, p. 260
Hymn: "Jesus Sinners Doth Receive" 609:1-4
Reading: Luke 15:1-10
Luke 15:1-10 (ESV) 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 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."
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
They nailed Him. "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Truer words never spoken. And when they grumble about it, Jesus opens His mouth in stories that are intended to invite to awe and astonishment at what goes on in the heart of God when the sinner repents, that is, when the sinner returns to Jesus and gives an ear to what He would say, and finds delight in being with Him.
And so He asks a question that we dare not slide past. "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?" Stop and think about what He's asking here. What man of you? The only honest answer is: "None of us? I mean, that would be kinda stupid, don't think you? To leave 99 sheep in the open country and go after one?"
And then there's the rest of the question. What man of you, when you found your sheep would lay it on your shoulders rejoicing, and when you got home throw a big party for all the neighbors to rejoice with you because you found your lost sheep?
Again, the honest answer? "None of us? I mean, they'd think I was kind of demented if I got that worked up over a lost sheep, wouldn't they? They think I need some help with my mental health."
How did God put it in Isaiah 55? "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts" says the Lord "and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." It's hard for us to get this, but it's vital that we do. We like to imagine that what seems reasonable and rational in our opinion is what is actually reasonable and rational to God. But that couldn't be more wrong.
Do you remember the words right BEFORE My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts? They are these: "Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them return to the LORD that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts..."
Woah! Jesus really did come to seek and to save the lost. He came for the sick, not the healthy. He came for the sinner, not the righteous. Which means He came for you, just like He came for me. And so He does what makes not a lick of sense to us. He leaves everything to go after His lost sheep. And the singular there, the fathers are pretty unanimous in stressing that that is Adam and all his children in him, it is the human race, and so every particular member of it.
He still goes hunting the lost sheep. He does it the same way. He welcomes sinners who draw near to hear Him as He opens His mouth to teach, and He dares even to eat with them. His thoughts are nothing like our thoughts. With the Psalmist we can cry out: What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Psalm 8:4 And shocking as the answer is: They are my brothers and my sisters. I made them in my image. I took on their flesh and died their death so that they could live in me and share in my joy and the joy of the holy angels forever."
Crazy, right? But when you see it you realize with awe the joy that is in the heart of God over the sinner who repents, who listens to Jesus and eats with Him and finds in Him the great welcome home. Crazy. Astounding. Wonderful.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: "Jesus Sinners Doth Receive" 609:5-7
Joel, Bonnie, Herb, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allan, Jan
Military Chaplain Joseph Siefert Jr. Deployed.