Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity
Text: Luke 15:1–10
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is the peculiar nature of our God that though He is holy, He seeks the unholy. Immediately after the Fall, God comes to Adam, drives him out of hiding, and covers his nakedness. This is the way in which God works throughout the scriptures. He who is holy does not tell the children of Israel, since you have made yourselves holy I will be your holy God. but rather, that they are to be holy as He is holy, because He sanctifies them.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
We are not worthy of His love, but His love makes us of great worth. We are the sheep who wander, the coin that is lost and cannot find itself. We are the tax collectors and sinners who have nothing to bring to Christ, but find great comfort in His presence. And we are the Pharisees, who are blind to our own failings and grumble that God receives sinners. But none of this keeps Christ from coming to us and calling us to Himself.
This is not the way of the world. We find value in that which is pleasing, Christ makes pleasing that which He values. We rejoice at that which ends or prevents suffering. Christ suffers the cross for the joy that was set before Him.
How quick are we to turn from God’s Kingdom because it is not what we expect. Like the Pharisees who grumble that Jesus receives those whom they see as worse than themselves, we may not say it but we sure can treat people as less important, because we think we have more to offer. Those are too poor and lowly, those are too rich and full of themselves. We can fall of the horse on either side, and either way we are saying, they are not enough like me to be liked by God.
Yet God looks at men who are not like Him at all. We are sinners, He is holy. We are dying, He is immortal. Yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The parables Jesus tells of the lost sheep and the lost coin are so beautiful because they describe situations we can relate to, yet it is a picture of God’s love that is completely contrary to what our sinful hearts desire.
The Pharisees did not want the tax collectors and sinners to enter the Kingdom of God, yet Jesus puts God’s love into terms that the Pharisees cannot help but acknowledge as good and right. The parable of the Lost Sheep is told in the form of a question. Which of you wouldn’t do this, if he has one hundred sheep and one is lost leave the ninety nine and search for the single one that needs help? The Pharisees must answer, “We would each do the same.”
If this is how men care for sheep, is it not right for God to show such love for men? Therefore it is not only right that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. It is right for Him to go further and suffer and die that they might live with Him eternally.
This is what Jesus does for you; this is what Jesus does for your neighbor. Let us rejoice that Jesus has called us to repentance and let us rejoice at each sinner He calls to join us not only in repentance, but in the Kingdom of heaven. The Church is a place of forgiveness; Christians are made through forgiveness. We speak of a desire to reach the lost. We collect mites so that God’s Word calls sinners to repentance around the world, but how often does Satan tempt us to act like the Pharisees when one near to us, perhaps a member of our community or even an estranged member of our family or this congregation, hears the Gospel and comes to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Do we rejoice and welcome them into our midst, or do we grumble and say, “Why should we receive sinners and eat with them?”
How easy it is to forget all that Christ has done for us when we see Him do the same for others! There is more than a little Pharisee in each of us. Chief of sinners though I be, I bet my neighbor’s worse than me. It doesn’t make sense, but that is often our attitude.
If we stopped resisting the Holy Spirit, perhaps we would come to give full acceptance to that trustworthy saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
It is not my neighbor who most needs the gospel; it is not the tax collectors, who most need saving. It is myself that stands in need before God. I am the unholy one; I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Dear friends in Christ, Jesus comes only for sinners. Do not be afraid to be one nor to keep company with those who do. Christ does not value you based on your earthly reputation. Instead He values you based on the worth given to You by the shedding of His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.
What are you worth, you are worth the cross of Calvary? Yet for the joy that was set before Him Christ endured the cross, despising its shame that your shame be covered, your guilt atoned for.
You are the reason that angels rejoice. You are carried home on the shoulders of Him who bore the cross and your sin. God pursues you. When you stray, God seeks you to restore you to the fold. When you sin, God sends His messengers to forgive you. When you hold a grudge against your neighbors, Christ says, all that I have is yours, what do you lose by receiving back your brother who was lost, but now is found, was dead, but now lives?
God’s ways certainly are not what we would have imagined. Let us rejoice. They are better.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria