Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
September 16, 2007
Text: Luke 15:1-10

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15; ESV). Every one of us in this church building this morning should be nodding in assent and yielding our hearty “yea and amen” to this statement. We are sinners. We have sinned against our Lord in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole hearts. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have had other gods. We have not been faithful in our devotion to His Word and teaching. We have not honored our parents. We have hated. We have lusted. We have coveted. We have been negligent at home and at work. We have wasted God’s good gifts and been ungrateful. Yes, each one of us can say of himself or herself, I am the chief of sinners. It is a saying that is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

But “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me” (LSB 611:1). This, also, is a trustworthy saying and deserving of full acceptance, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” even the chief of sinners, the foremost, even me. Yes, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners like you and me. That is the reason for Christmas. That is the content of Good Friday and Easter and all of the Church festivals that mark the saving acts of our Lord. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt. 9:12). Christ Jesus came to seek and save sinners. So it should not surprise us that here He is in the Gospel lesson attracting that very crowd. “Now the tax collectors and sinners,” the despised of Israel, “were all drawing near to hear him” (Luke 15:1). Also not surprising is that this caused no small amount of consternation among the Pharisees. “(T)he Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (v. 2). But these tax collectors and sinners knew something about Jesus’ mission and purpose that the Pharisees and scribes did not. Jesus came to seek sinners in need of a Savior. So they came in repentance to hear Him, to hear His Word, and to be forgiven of their sins.

This is lost on the Pharisees, so Jesus tells a number of parables to illustrate this point, two of which we have in our Gospel lesson this morning: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. In the parable of the lost sheep (vv. 3-7), Jesus points out that a shepherd with a hundred sheep is responsible for every last one of them. So when one of the sheep wanders off, the shepherd has the responsibility to leave the 99 that have not wandered off and seek and save the drifter. The parable of the lost coin is like unto it. The woman who has ten silver coins, if she looses one, still seeks diligently until she finds it. And when the lost sheep and the lost coin are found, there is much rejoicing. That which was lost has been restored. Thanks be to God! Let’s celebrate with a meal!

Now here’s the rub. The Pharisees have been unfaithful shepherds. They are charged with tending the spiritual flock of Israel. But they don’t care about the lost. They despise the lost. They despise the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus is always hanging around. Jesus points out that real shepherds love their sheep so much that they always seek and rescue those who have gone astray. So Who is the Shepherd who always seeks the erring.? You know the answer. It is Jesus, your Good Shepherd. He is ever faithful. He has come to seek and save sinners. All heaven rejoices. “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” (v. 7).

Oh, but there’s another rub against the Pharisees. They know that Jesus is talking about them. They are the 99 who think they need no repentance. But they know that Jesus thinks otherwise. Jesus teaches that all people need to repent. All are sinners. All have turned aside; all alike have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom. 3:12). That means the self-righteous Pharisees, too. The tax collectors and sinners know their need for repentance. The Pharisees are blind to that need. They cannot accept it. The tax collectors and sinners go home justified, righteous, forgiven, found. Therefore there is more rejoicing over one tax collector or sinner who repents, than over 99 Pharisees who have outward righteousness but inwardly are full of death, like whitewashed tombs; who reject Jesus and His righteousness, because they would rather plead their own righteousness before God. The parables in our text this morning are not only comforting for tax collectors and sinners who have come in repentance to be found by Jesus. They are also calls for the Pharisees to repent and receive in faith the salvation God has given them in Jesus Christ.

The call to repentance is issued to you this morning, as well, whoever you are. If you are a wandering sheep in need of finding and rescuing, have no fear. Jesus finds you, sinner that you are, and brings you back to His fold, where there is much rejoicing. He washes your wounds in His baptismal waters. He speaks His tender Word in your ear. He throws a feast to celebrate your safe return. If you are a proud Pharisee, trusting in your own righteousness, pointing out the specks in the eyes of others but failing to see the log in your own eye, repent. For Jesus is here for you, as well. Come like a tax collector and a sinner to hear Jesus. He also seeks you who are Pharisees, who do not know you are sinners, who do not know your great need for repentance, who do not know your great need for the Savior. He calls you, too, to cast off your own righteousness and put on His righteousness, the robes He gives you in Holy Baptism, the robes washed white in His blood. There is forgiveness with Him. Do not reject Him. Cling to Him. The Promise is for you and your children. You may not know it, but you, too, are lost and in need of rescue. And here is Jesus to take you in His arms, hoist you over His shoulders, and bring you back into the fold where there is great rejoicing.

Jesus has come to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, finds the lost sheep, and there is much rejoicing in heaven. And so we come to the second parable. It is the woman with ten silver coins. She has lost one. The woman is the Holy Church, and she is searching for her coin of salvation, the payment for her sins. She needs a light. She lights the lamp of the Word and searches diligently. Her light is the Word that speaks of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and His death on the cross. That is the payment for her sins. Jesus has made full atonement for her. Tax collectors and sinners, Pharisees and scribes alike come to the light of the Word to hear Jesus and His Word of forgiveness and salvation. There is healing there for the wounded sheep. There is payment for sin. It is yours. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ. “Rejoice with me” (Luke 15:9). Come and celebrate. Mother Church cannot hold back her joy. She must share the Good News with all. So she proclaims the salvation of Christ to all of the lost sinners in this world. She brings them into her house to bask in the light of the lamp, the Word of God, and behold the salvation of Jesus. The angels look on in wonder and joy. There is much rejoicing, indeed.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came into the world to save you. He came into the world to save me. He came into the world to save all people. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to seek you. And when He finds you, He takes you in His healing arms and brings you to His feast. Jesus sinners doeth receive. He receives them and eats with them. He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil. Your cup runneth over. Jesus receives sinners and eats with them today, here, in this place, at the feast of celebration. Salvation is as tangible as bread and wine. The table is set. Let us sing our hosannas to the Son of David, and come to the feast of our Good Shepherd. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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