Joy in Heaven
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It must have been strange for the scribes and Pharisees, watching Jesus. Eating with sinners and tax collectors? Hanging out with them? What does He think He's doing? Maybe Jesus doesn't know they're sinners. The scribes and Pharisees certainly know. Maybe Jesus should hang out with the righteous so He can learn who the right people are. Jesus is causing a scandal!
The sad thing is, sometimes we think the Pharisees and scribes are right. Jesus shouldn't be with those people. He should be teaching why those people shouldn't get to eat dinner with everyone. We think that way because that's how we treat sinners. You know who the sinners are. They are the people who do you wrong, who hurt you. You have no time for those who sin against you. They had their chance and they blew it. More than that, they probably keep doing it. No sitting down to dinner with them. Instead, shun them. Give them the silent treatment. If it were a sheep, we'd go find it. If it were a coin, we'd sweep in every corner. That's because we treat our stuff better than we treat our people. We take better care of our things than we do our neighbor. We get along well enough until someone does or says something we don't like, and then we're done with them. We label them as sinners and have nothing to do with them anymore.
So why are you here today? You are here today because Jesus receives and eats with sinners. You are here today because Jesus seeks lost sheep and searches for that lost coin. You are here because you wandered off like a sheep or rolled into the corner like a lost coin and the Lord spared no effort in finding you. He became man to go after you. He was baptized and took your sins to the cross to bring you back. He gave His life to bring you back. That's why you're here today: because Jesus comes to find and save sinners. That's what He does. Jesus leaves the righteous to themselves. Those who think they are good enough for God are no concern of Jesus. He comes for sinners, for those who can't save themselves. That's you and me.
And why is there joy in heaven? Why do the angels rejoice? They rejoice when a sinner repents. And that's not about you. They don't rejoice because you did something. They rejoice because the Lord did something. He searched and He found you and saved you. They don't look at you and say, “Wow, you repented and really turned your life around. Let's party!” No, they rejoice because the Lord whom they serve day and night became man and went to find and bring back sinners. That's what repentance is: Jesus finds you. Have you repented? That’s a hard question, because you can never be sure that you’ve fully turned away from your sin. But has Jesus found you? Yes. You were found by Him the day you were baptized and brought into His kingdom. Jesus receives you when your pastor absolves your sins. And then the Lord brings you home to His church and eats with you. And He's not just here as the guest with us; He's the food, too! Why would He do that? The scribes and Pharisees say, “Jesus receives sinners and eats with them!” What does it mean? It means that the One who is worthy also makes you worthy to sit with Him.
Jesus came for all people, but those who are sinners are the ones He receives and eats with. Tax collectors. Sinners. You. So what does Jesus think He's doing eating with tax collectors and sinners? He's saving them. So what are you doing here today? The Lord has come to save you. He has saved you. He brings you to His feast. Are you a sinner? If so, then you are the one Jesus receives and eats with. His meal is the meal of salvation. Jesus has come to save sinners: to find lost sheep and coins. He has found you. He has saved you. The scribes and Pharisees don't like it, but that's what Jesus does: He saves sinners and eats with them. And He does it again here today. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.