Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 15th (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
He Eats with Sinners!
He eats with sinners! Oh, for shame! “Shame, shame shame! Everyone knows your name!” go the hearts of the Pharisees even while fingers wave in the air. “Shame! Shame! Shame on you Jesus. You should know better! You should know who’s touching you, following you, pressing round about you. You should know what’s being said about you . .. . you . . . you scandalous man you. You eat with sinners!
And you’re supposed to be eating people who aren’t sinners, well at least people who don’t sin as much as the people you’re eating with – you know those tax collectors and prostitutes – those people who live their lives indulging their feelings, their passions, their lusts, squandering their lives in sin. You should be eating with people like us, Jesus. Why are you ignoring us? We’ve been here all the time, following God’s commandments, doing our best to do what’s right. You’re showing favoritism to the wrong kind of people – to those kinds of people. Shame . . . shame . . . shame on you Jesus.”
Sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to Jesus to listen to Jesus. Broken people with broken lives and broken hearts were gathering round about this man from Nazareth to hear the Word of God. This was quite the scandal for Jesus, quite the scandal for the Pharisees and scribes. Their hearts were having trouble with this kind of behavior. They were stumbling, grumbling and bumbling their way around this. They could see the crowds. They could hear Jesus, but they could see their own sin and they couldn’t get over the grace of God. So Jesus tells them a parable.
Normally we call this the parable of the prodigal son, but really this is a parable about two sons, two scandalous sons and one terribly scandalous Father. Each son is broken. Each son is apart from the father. One son, the younger son, asks for his inheritance. The father divides it out to both. One son should have never asked for it. The other son, the older son, should have never taken it. One son goes away to far off country and sins with the best of sinners. The other son stays home but his heart is on his friends. One son likes wine, women, and wild times. The other son works, worries about what he doesn’t have, and wonders about what could be. One son, the younger son “comes to his senses” and repents – sort of. He wants to come back, but not as a son, that’s too good for him. He wants to come back as a slave. He wants to come back to “work it off”. The other son, the older son, has been working all these years. He’s been there. He’s been good. And he thinks he deserves more for himself. The younger son is like the tax collectors, prostitutes, and all who are afar off from the Lord. The older son is like the Pharisees and the scribes who still think Works are the way to the Father’s heart and are angry when He eats with those kind of people.
Sinful hearts can have it no other way. Sinful hearts fill both sons, both groups, even you here today. The sinful heart thinks works are the way to the Father’s heart, that is the only way it can think but carnal man, fallen man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. Thus, there is a way that seems right, that makes sense, a way that we think we can do. But that way leads to death. The wages of sin is death.
Just as the prodigal living of the one son led to pig slop, so also the older son’s love of his own asceticism and strict moral convictions keep him outside of the Father’s house. Both sons, both groups are fixed on works. One is fixed on bad works and is not worthy to be a son. One is fixed on good works and thinks he deserves more. Which son are you? To which group do you belong?
One son sets out to come back to the Father. He comes to his senses – sort of. He repents – sort of. The other son is angry and keeps himself out in the fields supposing his absence to be hurting his father and still trying to manipulate the father’s heart but such actions.
Scandalous Love of a Father
But the Father is not like his sons. He too is scandalous. But His scandal is love and mercy and forgiveness. He rushes, he runs, he shames himself to get to his prodigal son, lost sinners, people like Adam and Eve in the garden, sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes at Jesus’ table, people like you and me here today. Love compels him onward. Love quickens his feet. Love opens his arms. Love brings the kiss of peace on the neck, the warm embrace of a father and his son. Love clothes him. Love shods his feet. Love gives him the family signet. Love rejoices for the son once dead lives again! The son once lost is home again! The son once the cause of grief and sorrow now is reason for rejoicing, feasting, and making merry!
This feast is not only for the wicked who turn from their evils ways, but for all God’s children who repent and believe the gospel. It is for the younger son, the prodigal son, for sinners and tax collectors and it is for the older son who refuses to come in from the fields. Love moves the father outside once more as he seeks reconciliation with the older, with the righteous, the doers of good works, that both older and younger may enjoy the father’s bounty by grace and rejoice together as a heavenly family.
Oh, beloved! What love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God! And we are! We are loved beyond love! And it is a scandalous love. It is a love that forgives, not blindly nor without cost but a love that forgives on account of Christ! The cost is the cross and there the Father’s heart is torn asunder as the only-begotten Son suffers and dies for the sins the world, sinners like you and me, tax collectors, prostitutes, self-righteous hypocrites, Pharisees, scribes, and stubborn brothers who refuse the Father’s grace. Jesus dies for all because God loves all and wills all to be saved and come to the knowledge of such a scandalous salvation. For this is love, not that we loved God, not that we worked our way back, not that we could earn the Father’s love, but this is love that God gave His only-begotten Son into death, even death on the cross in order that sin be destroyed, death be rendered impotent and hell’s fury be put down once and for all, once on the cross and for all people, once so long ago and for all of you today!
Thus the scandalous love of the Father has gotten a scandalous redemption for us through blood, sweat and tears of the man from Nazareth. Into His death you were baptized. And with His resurrection you were raised. There is no sin that should keep you from the Father’s kingdom. And there is no reason that you should not rejoice with all the heavenly hosts when other sinners repent and believe the gospel. The Father’s heart is swayed only by blood, only the blood of Jesus. Your works, good or bad will not deter His love for you. Only through unbelief, only remaining in your sin so far away or stubbornly remaining in the field wishing you could party with your friends will be you be lost forever.
Repent! Return! Receive the Father’s love. Be clothed in the righteousness of Christ! Let the gospel of peace shod your feet that you may walk in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father not as a slave or servant but as a son, a son redeemed by the blood of the Only-begotten One. Come to your senses and behold the Father’s never ending grace and His scandalous love for you and me and all who are descended from Adam. There is no one who is left out. There is no one who is unloved. There is no one whom the Father does not want to save, forgive, clothe, shod, embrace, kiss, welcome home and throw a feast for.
He still Eats with Sinners
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus still eats with sinners! What great news this is for us who need Him to be near us. We are welcome at His table where He gives true food for the hungry and true drink to slake our thirst. Here is His body and here is His blood given for you for the forgiveness of your sins. The sacrifice has been made once for all. The Lamb is slain and the Lamb is risen. He reigns over heaven and earth, over sin and death, devil and hell. And He would have you join Him no matter if you are chief of sinners or not so much. For the way to the Father’s heart is not by works but by grace through faith. It is by Jesus, His death and His resurrection. Here is Jesus and so here is salvation . . . FOR YOU! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!