A God Like You
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
God doesn't make sense. He is supposedly a just God, yet He pardons iniquity and passes over transgressions. God is supposed to bless those who live good lives and punish sinners. What's with all this forgiveness? The Pharisees and scribes thought that way. Jesus was preaching and teaching to tax collectors and sinners and even ate with them! If He was really God, He would know what kind of people those are. And He does. But Jesus is not the kind of God who slaps the back of good people. Jesus comes for sinners. By sending His Son, God the Father is seeking lost sheep and lost coins—sheep that have wandered off in their sins and are perilously close to getting eaten by a wolf; coins that have rolled into the farthest corner under the cabinet where the cobwebs and dirt are. Jesus came for sinners: people who don't love God or their neighbors as they should; people who don't pray and learn the Scriptures as they should; people who are messed up parents and spouses and children who seem to break a commandment whenever they take a step!
That's who Jesus comes to rescue. He comes for them by taking their sins Himself and carrying them to the cross, where He bleeds and dies to pay their price. He searches them out and finds them through the preaching of His Gospel in the world, through the water and word of Holy Baptism. He finds them and brings them into His church. We talk about repentance, and it’s a big word. Repentance is not some showy display that you got your life straightened out. Repentance works like this: You sin, and Jesus finds you and saves you and brings you into His Kingdom. He does it with water and the Word and the preaching of the Gospel. He keeps you in the faith by His Word and Absolution and His body and blood. That's why the tax collectors and sinners came to hear Jesus: He did not preach as the god of the Pharisees to demand that they clean up their act. They came to Jesus because the Law was of no help to them. Try as they might, they could not love God and their neighbor as they should. So they came to hear Jesus because He spoke forgiveness to them.
But watch out! Your enemy the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. And how will the Devil eat you up? He will do it by turning you back into a Pharisee! The great danger to faith is refusing to believe you are a sinner. Christians are always faced with the temptation to think we're basically good people. But that's the inner Pharisee speaking! It doesn't matter who you are or what you do—you will always think there are worse people than you. You can drive better. You can raise your kids better. You have a better marriage. You have a neater yard. You are better pastor. You're a better Christian. The Pharisees thought God was like them and showed favor to them because they were so holy. Today, hearing about lost sheep and coins, we must confess that, when it comes down to it, we don't really think we're sinners!
If you're not a poor, miserable sinner, then Jesus can't help you. If you come to this place because you think this is the place where the righteous people hang out, then your pastor has nothing for you. You’ve wasted your time today. But if you come to church because you are beat down by the devil, the world and your sinful nature, then Jesus has given your pastor plenty of Good News to speak to you. All we have going on in this place is the forgiveness of sins for sinners. The Lord spares no expense to find us and rescue us in our sins! The shepherd searches high and low until he finds that lost sheep. The woman doesn't stop sweeping and scrubbing until she finds that coin. In the same way, our Lord stops at nothing to rescue us from our sins. He goes through arrest and beatings and spitting and mocking and flogging and the agony of crucifixion and the rest in the tomb to bring you back to God. There is no sin too big, no iniquity hidden so well that Jesus cannot wipe it away with His blood. If you are troubled by your sins, rejoice in the God who comes to take them away! If you are worried that you haven't lived the life you should, rejoice in the Savior who lived in perfect obedience for you. If you are certain that you are no lover of God and no lover of your neighbor, rejoice that the Lord has come and found you by His cross. Rejoice that those sins have been blotted out. Rejoice that through Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, our Lord has made you holy and righteous in His sight, and then share that forgiveness with other sinners.
“Who is a God like you?” asks Micah. Indeed, who is a God like Jesus? He is not the God we expect. He doesn't come to congratulate the righteous. No, He comes to be a Savior for the sinners. Thanks and praise be to Jesus who come to be a man, and yet was without sin so that He could take away our sins. Jesus is for sinners. Jesus is for you. Here is your repentance all you sheep and lost coins: You have been found in Christ. And the angels rejoice in heaven over what the Lord has done for you. 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.