Search and Rescue
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The scribes and Pharisees were appalled that Jesus would eat with sinners. And these weren’t just regular sinners; they were notorious sinners, sinners who had betrayed their own people. Imagine drug dealers. Imagine serial killers. Imagine traitors who sold state secrets to ISIS. And there’s Jesus, a respected rabbi, hanging out with them and eating with them. What an outrage!
Jesus could very well have given them reasons they could accept. He could have said that He was calling them to repentance, showing them a better way to live. But He didn't. Instead He told them a parable in which He placed those notorious sinners on equal footing with the Pharisees. They are all His lambs. They are all His coins, all His sons. Even while they're lost, while they're off squandering the inheritance, while they hate Him, mock and ridicule Him, while they scourge and murder Him, they are His lambs, His coins, His sons. He loves them and He wants them back. All of them are precious and valuable to Him. All of them have been reconciled to the Father in His Sacrifice. He died for every single one of them. He loves them all. And now Hell has nothing more to demand, for there is not a single sin that has not already been covered.
This can be hard to accept. We would like some justice and maybe even some vengeance. We'd like the other sinners to pay for what they've done. We'd like the world to know their shame and sorrow, how bad and stupid and selfish they really are. We'd like them to feel some of the pain that they've caused. But like King David, who was outraged by Nathan’s parable but ignored his own sin in causing Uriah’s death, we too are guilty of the sins we despise. Let David's repentance be your guide. Let the Psalms teach you the faith and teach you to sing: “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed. You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” The truth is, if you are no better than David, neither are you any less forgiven. Your hope is no less assured. God doesn’t love you any less.
The Lord of Life seeks out for sinners. He loves them. He wants to be with them, to eat and laugh with them, to love them. He did not come to berate them, scold, or educate them. He wants to serve them, encourage and support them. That is what makes the Pharisees and scribes mad. No one would be upset if He came to teach these bad people a lesson. But to simply forgive and love them? That seems too naive and foolish. Our Lord doesn't care what shame it brings: He loves sinners. He searches for them, receives them, and eats with them. He lets them off the hook without cost or effort, without promise or condition. And if you are His friend, you will rejoice with Him over every sinner that He finds, restores, blesses, and prospers. You will rejoice to call them your brother or sister in Christ.
This is the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus receives and eats with sinners. It seems almost too good to be true. But it is not cheap grace. It cost our Father the Life of His Son. But still, despite your sin, Jesus seeks you. He searches for you. He wants you because He loves you. God be praised! Jesus receives and eats with sinners. And if that is the heart and soul of our faith, then surely the most significant place of His eating with sinners is where He gives them His Body and His Blood; where He enters into them and makes them His new Temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; where He forgives sins and unites them to Himself in the foretaste of the banquet to come. What is offered this day is none other than the Lord’s Supper, and He gives it to you. You are found, and all the angels rejoice. 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.