Who Does Jesus Welcome?

Text: Luke 15:1-10

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It seems that everyone wants to have Jesus in their corner these days.

What would Jesus do?

Well, He would support my agenda and not yours. Jesus would accept me and not you.  He is a part of my group, and not yours!  Therefore, your agenda and what you stand for are not valid because Jesus does not receive evil people but good people like me. 

Indeed, it seems that Jesus is more often than not, used as a pawn for political agendas, social activism, and economic theories. That is to say; Jesus is used as a way to validate a particular political party or a particular social activist. Like a game of tug-of-war, Jesus is often yanked into a certain group for validation, until he is pulled into a different group for their validation. And here’s the catch, the group that can demonstrate that Jesus receives them the most, well… they can then play the moral high ground and condemn everyone else around them as subpar outcasts and rejects who don’t have Jesus.

But in doing this, a huge problem comes about. The problem with this kind of thinking is that portrays Jesus as receiving champions and not outcasts.  Indeed, it makes Jesus into someone who came into the world to support the righteous and not the rejects.  In other words, this is the exact opposite of what Jesus says in the Bible.  You see, Jesus says that He came into the world for a very particular purpose – to save sinners.  In our Gospel reading from Luke as well, we hear that Jesus welcomes sinners by eating with them.  That is the complete opposite of what we would suppose.    

But regardless of what we hear from Jesus and our Gospel reading, we still don’t want to be sinners, and we still want to have Jesus to be a part of our groups. 

And so, what we end up doing is that we put a muzzle on Jesus.  We close our ears to Jesus by not listening to Him in His Word.  Furthermore, we will often mute His Word – and even change it at times – so that we don’t have to hear that we are sinners, while at the same time putting Jesus in our back pocket as affirmation. 

To make things even worse, when we come across sinners; that is to say, rejects and outcasts who listen to Jesus’ Word, well… we end up scoffing at them because Jesus couldn’t possibly welcome ‘those kind’ of people. He can’t be with this low-life-scum because He is with us in our group! 

The Pharisees of the first-century were playing this same kind of game as well.  The Pharisees did not listen to Jesus, and as a result, when Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with sinners, the Pharisees grumbled!  They griped and bellyached because Jesus was validating ‘those’ people – those sinners.  He was accepting people who were not in good standing – people who were a part of the outcast and sinful group.   

But the Pharisees were severely mistaken in their group thinking, and we are too.  You see, for Jesus, there is only one group.  Not two or three but only one group.  That is to say; Jesus only acknowledges, receives, and welcomes one group.  And that group is sinners.  Yes, sinners. 

Dear friends, it is quite simple, with Jesus, there are only two types of people in this world: those who deny that they are sinners and those who confess that they are sinners.  Yes, because there is only one group, there are only two reactions: either you deny that you are a part of the sinner group or you confess that you are a part of it.  It is that simple. 

Those who deny that they are sinners, well… they beat their chest in self-confidence, declare that they are not like all those other sinners and that Jesus is a part of their elite group.  There is more, they do not listen to anyone or anything but run with their mouth telling everyone else – including God – how great they are.

On the other hand, those who confess that they are sinners, well… they beat their chest in repentance, declare that they are spiritually bankrupt, and are welcomed by Jesus.  There is more; the Lord puts ears on these sinners so that they will listen to Jesus.

Yes, there are two types of people: those who deny that they are sinners with closed ears and running mouths, and those who confess that they are sinners with closed mouths and open ears to Jesus. 

Which one are you this day? 

Are you like the Pharisees devoting all of your time trying to convince yourself that you are not a sinner?  If so, know this, you are deceived!  You are not in a separate elite group – somehow above other sinners!  You are just not that special.  There is only one group – all of humanity is sin-sick, which includes you and me too.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “No one is righteous, not even one.”  And secondly, you are not capable of earning righteousness.  No matter how hard you scrub the stains of your sin, no matter how much spiritual cosmetics you apply, and no matter how much you try to impress God, you are a part of the same group as everyone else – the sinner group. 

Dear friends, imagining that you are not a sinner before God – that you are somehow in a different class of people due to your worth and merit is not only deceptively wrong, it is heretical.  You are sin-sick, just like the rest of humanity.  We are all in the same sinking boat together.  We are all in the same group.  To imagine that we are not a sinner is not only to deny reality, but it is also to deny our need of Jesus.  Indeed, when we imagine that we don’t have sin or that our sin is not as bad as other people, we are essentially relying on ourselves and we are rejecting our need for Jesus, who bears the sins of the world. 

Dear friends, repent!  Do not be like the Pharisees who think they do not need forgiveness.  Repent of pretending that you are not a sinner. Yes, do not pretend you are healthy and have no use for a doctor.  Beware of not wishing to be a part of the great group of sinners, for Christ only comes for sinners!   

But rather, sit at the table with fellow sinners – not to boast in your sin – but to hear about the forgiveness of your sins in Jesus.  Yes, eat with tax collectors, rejects, and outcasts, not because you are trying to show compassion to them, but because you are like them.  You are like them because you are a sinner in need of hearing from Jesus – just like everyone else in this world. 

And what do you hear from Jesus?  You hear that there is only one group – that is the group of sinners of whom Christ died for.  Indeed, in Christ, as a sinner, you have one who delights in mercy towards you.  In Jesus, you have one who casts all your sins into the depth of the sea through the cross.    In Jesus, you have one who still sits at a table with you and me in the Holy Supper to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  In fact, as a part of this group of sinners, Christ considers you as Saints, for you are covered and made white in His blood.

That is the whole point that Jesus is trying to make to you and me from the parables in the reading from Luke’s Gospel.  Our Lord not only welcomes sinners and eats with them, but He eagerly seeks out sinners.  He seeks out the lost sheep.  He looks for the lost coin.  He longs for the prodigal son.  These are all pictures of the great love of the Lord for sinners.  They are a picture of the Lord Jesus seeking out sinners like you and me so that we might hear and receive the Gospel!  God be praised; Christ came to stomp on the iniquities of us sinners!  The Gospel is for us, sinners.  It is for you and me, so that we may know that we are forgiven in Jesus. 

Rejoice today, He welcomes you.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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