Trinity Sixteen, Sunday October 6, 2019 — Luke 15:1-7 — Jesus Came to Save Every Sinner
Sermon for Trinity Sixteen – Sunday October 6, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Luke 15:1-7 (NKJV)
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who came to save EVERY Sinner,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
Let’s imagine for a moment that during the pre-sermon hymn this morning a visitor suddenly slipped in the door and sat down next to you. Would you scoot down to the other end of the pew? Would you help the person follow along in the bulletin and point out the proper pages in the hymnal to follow? Would you greet the person afterward and invite them to return next week?
Now, before you smile and answer, “Yes, of course!”
- What if the person was dressed in shabby clothing with strong body odor?
- What if the person smelled of beer and vomit and was drunk?
- What if the person was someone that had wronged you or one of your children?
Would it change your attitude toward them? Would you still urge them to talk to the pastor about membership at Calvary? A better question would be...should it matter? More to the point…would it matter to Jesus?
In the Word of God that was our Gospel Lesson this morning we read that the social outcasts and unsavory types were coming to Jesus. We noticed that Jesus received them and ate with them. We also noticed what the Pharisees and Scribes thought about Jesus reception of Tax Collectors and Sinners. We are reminded in this account that Jesus came to save EVERY sinner, including people as filthy as you and me.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, Son of God, You humbled yourself and were born of a woman in order to keep and fulfill the Law of God which we have broken countless times. Savior, You came to seek out and to save every sinner, including those who didn’t and don’t think that they need You. Teach me to love others as You have loved me. Help me to be more patient with fellow believers and look out for the needs of others. Grant that I may always be ready to serve them with the gifts that you have given me. Amen.
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
These words do not describe a single event. In fact, the original language indicates that this was an ongoing thing. Still, I doubt that in reading these words we understand how shocking it really was…unless one of the individuals described in the introduction is really sitting next to you.
Tax collectors and Sinners – the were the dregs of society in Jesus’ day.
- Tax Collectors -- People still complain about paying their taxes today, but in Jesus’ day the Roman Empire and the local rulers awarded the right to collect taxes to the highest bidder. In order to recoup their costs, tax collectors typically collected more than was required and pocketed the difference. They were also considered traitors because they helped the pagan Roman Government. For their trouble they were considered as bad as the worst of sinners.
- Sinners – were people who had fallen into some grave sin and were looked upon like lepers by ‘good, law abiding citizens.’ Those caught in adultery, robbers or some other public sin, were shunned by the people and by the religious leaders.
Now I want you to notice why they were coming to Jesus. They weren’t coming to Jesus – like some – to see some miracle worked by him or to get a free meal. They were coming to Jesus to listen to Him. They were coming to hear His message of hope and forgiveness. They were gathering to Jesus…for the same reason that we are this morning.
Tax Collectors and Sinners were social outcasts because of their occupations and actions. They were spiritual lepers, seeking cleansing. They did not deny that they were sinners for even if the people didn’t shun them, God’s Law made that abundantly clear. The religious leaders refused to give them the time of day, they shunned them.
Jesus received them. This doesn’t mean that Jesus approved of their sinful actions. It doesn’t mean that Jesus overlooked sin. Jesus knew their hearts and taught them that He had come to make atonement for their sins. These people were coming to Jesus – because unlike anyone else – Jesus cared for them.
Jesus even ate with them. No doubt if Jesus were walking our streets today and did the same, TV reporters would proclaim His goodness and kindness. There would still be people who would not approve…like the Pharisees and the Scribes.
The Pharisees and the Scribes…were the polar opposite of Tax Collectors and Sinners…in their own minds and in the minds of the common people.
- The Pharisees were the ‘good, church going people’ of the day. They made every effort to keep the Law of God and even added to God’s Word their own additions and traditions. They believed the sad lie that they would be accepted by God because they were ‘good people.’
- The Scribes were men who made their living making copies of the Old Testament Scriptures. They were respected by the people because – well, if anyone should know the Word of God it was them.
A group of these men stood apart and grumbled among themselves. They pointed the finger at Jesus and refusing even to speak the name of Jesus, criticized Him, saying: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” They self-righteously shook their heads at Jesus because He received sinners (and they wouldn’t dream of it) and even went so far as to eat with them (gasp!).
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, wasn’t unaware of their criticism. Neither is He ignorant of what goes on in our hearts. Jesus came to save EVERY sinner and so He used this illustration to reach out…to the Pharisees and the Scribes.
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
The Lord Jesus is a master teacher…and because He came to save not only Tax Collectors and Sinners, He used an illustration and asked a question of those assembled Pharisees and Scribes. He asked the question of the group but directed it to them as individuals. If we were using the illustration today, we might say it like this:
Let’s suppose that you had 100 sheep and one of them wandered away from the flock and was lost.
What would you do?
Even if none of those men owned a single animal, the answer was obvious. So, Jesus answered His own question…naturally any caring, responsible shepherd would leave the other sheep and go and look for that one lost animal. Lest we get bogged down in the details of the illustration and miss the point – the word ‘wilderness’ doesn’t refer to the middle of the woods in danger of predators, but an open area, regular pastureland outside of the town.
Jesus isn’t suggesting that any responsible shepherd would put the rest of the flock in danger for the sake of one animal!
Any caring, responsible shepherd would search until he finds that animal. What would he do when he found it? He wouldn’t kick it around in anger for having put him out. He wouldn’t berate it for being so stupid. He would pick up the tired animal and carry it home, rejoicing! Why rejoicing? Simply because the lost sheep had been found and would be returned to the flock, to ready nourishment, to safety and security; to a shepherd who loved it!
A caring, responsible shepherd would perhaps go a step further. He would be so ecstatic, that he would call his friends and neighbors and invite them over to celebrate with Him. He isn’t concerned about what his friends and neighbors think about celebrating over finding an animal. The shepherd’s joy is in this simple fact: The sheep that was lost has been found.
So…what’s the story all about? What are we to learn from Jesus’ illustration? We aren’t left to wonder or to ‘interpret it ourselves.’ Jesus the master teacher explains the point:
7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
Jesus turns from the story to reveal what only Jesus can reveal…how heaven’s inhabitants view the lost being found. The Savior isn’t talking about sheep and shepherds anymore…in fact He never really was. He was restating what we know that He, the Son of God, came into human flesh and blood to seek out and to save EVERY sinner.
Jesus – as only the Son of God can – tells us that there is joy in heaven over every sinner who repents. Whenever it happens that a human being caught in sin is moved to confess his sin, to turned from his sin by Godly Repentance and to trust that Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary has made atonement for sin…a cheer goes up in heaven! Should we be surprised, after all, the Scripture declares that God (1 Timothy 2:4, NKJV):
“…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
It is God’s earnest desire that all men see His Son, and believing in Him be saved, as Jesus Himself said (John 6:40, NKJV):
“…this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who is restored than over the 99 that are already safe. Jesus doesn’t make any character assassinations in the story. He doesn’t say that ‘those who need no repentance’ are self-righteous people like the Pharisees and neither should we.
We can understand the simple message – Heaven rejoices when one sinner is snatched from unbelief and spiritual death and given eternal life through faith in Christ.
We can’t help wonder if the Pharisees and the Scribes understood the application of Jesus illustration. Let’s make sure we see it and apply it to ourselves…for there can be in each of us the attitude of the self-righteous Pharisee.
They were men who easily understood the value of an animal to a shepherd. They understood the care and concern of the shepherd to seek out, rescue and rejoice over a lost animal…but they themselves didn’t care about the souls of some of their fellow men, caught in sin and lost to God. They could only look down their noses at Tax Collectors and Sinners, refusing to acknowledge them, eat with them…much less seek them out.
They were men who claimed to understand God’s Word and to emulate it…yet there was in their heart little love for those caught in sin and lost to God. They refused to go out of their way to reach out and seek after those considered the dregs of society. If one of their own number were caught up in sin, they would turn their back on them and shun them rather than reach out to them, seeking that they be restored through Godly Repentance.
Now that said, these things are not written so that we look down our noses at the Pharisees and Scribes as they did with Jesus, Tax Collectors and Sinners. There is the danger that we become proud and self-righteous rather than humbling ourselves in thankfulness before God.
Therefore, let me ask one more question, and let’s each answer it for ourselves in our hearts: “Which group do I belong to? Am I a Tax Collector or Sinner…or am I like the Pharisees and Scribes?” Let’s not be too quick to answer…but recognize that there are times when our hearts are without Christ-like love and full of self-righteousness, like when we take pride in our being in church over against those who are absent.
For the message that Christ came to save EVERY sinner…is only comforting to us if we recognize ourselves to be lost sinners. Unless the Good Shepherd seek us out and find us and save us by His grace, we would be lost forever, for we are born condemned sinners.
Let us never downplay our sins and weakness as minor character flaws. If we do, then we will not appreciate what has been done for us. Jesus sought us out, found us and made us his own – not because we were a smidge better than someone else, but because of His grace, His own love for the unlovable.
Moreover, let us pray that the Love that Jesus has and has shown to us…be reflected in the way that we look at others. Whether the person smells of vomit and beer or has offensive body odor or have wronged us in some way…that person is someone for whom Jesus died. They are people that Jesus came to save…and whom we are seek out and lead to Jesus.
May the Spirit so change our hearts.