Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Jesus and the Stumbling, Bumbling, Grumbling Pharisees

Sermon Text: Luke 15:1-10
Day: September 8, 2013; Proper 19, 17th Sunday after Pentecost

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 chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

The Word Bears Fruit – Jesus eats with sinners

Steadfast Sermons GraphicThere are basically two groups of people in our text this morning. There are the hearers and there are the grumblers. Hearers are lost ones who have been found.  Grumblers are those lost in their own righteousness.  Lost ones who have been found eat and drink with Jesus.  Those lost in themselves wander about grumbling about Jesus eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors.  In these two groups we are to see ourselves.  We are either hearers or we are grumblers.  We are either those among the found ones feasting with Jesus or we are those still wandering about looking for something more, refusing to listen and thus refusing to be found.  The question is – are you a hearer or a grumbler.  Are you a lost one who has been found are you still looking, seeking, searching for something more than Jesus and His Word.

Our text tells us that “sinners and tax collectors were drawing near to Him in order to hear Him.” These are the lost ones. These are the poor, the disabled, the lame, the blind, those caught up in adultery, those who cheated their neighbors, slandered them, abandoned them, those who are lazy, no good up to nothing people, people wasting their lives in sin, those unsavory souls the good people try to avoid, those whom the Pharisees refuse to talk to, and most certainly would never be found eating with them.  Ah, but Jesus is found eating with them.  Jesus is found speaking with them.  Jesus does preach to them, teach them, and . . .  love them – despite their brokenness.  And His word bears fruit.  It doesn’t return void.  His Word never returns void.  It accomplishes that for which it was sent out.  He does the Work His Father sent Him to do:  Proclaim liberty to the captives!  Those who have ears to hear are busy hearing Jesus.

The Pharisees are the grumblers.  They’re not so sure about this guy Jesus.  After all He eats with sinners and tax collectors.  He draws the “less than” of society to Himself.  He rubs elbows with them.  He speaks kindly to them.  It’s almost as though He enjoys being around them.  What kind of teacher is this? What kind of Messiah is this?

And Jesus loves these Pharisees as much as he loves the sinners and the tax collectors.  Jesus loves you as much as the guy in front of you, and He loves the lady walking the street as much as he loves you. There’s no one left out of His love and that’s why as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem He continues to teach and to preach. That’s why He gives us two parables this morning.  He loves us.  Loving us He speaks to us.  Speaking to us He tells us of lost sheep and lost coins.

Lost Things = Lost Souls

These lost sheep and lost coins in our parable are really two parts to a three-part parable.  The Lost son is the conclusion, the climax, the pinnacle of both Jesus’ conversation with these Pharisees and I would say it’s the whole point of Luke’s gospel account.  Simply put, the Father wants His children back.  He wants you and He wants those around you, those apart from you, those apart from Him, those of you in here and those who remain out there.

The lost ones are like wandering sheep and hiding coins.  They are of great value to the shepherd and the lady of the house.  They are people like you and me, these lost ones.  They abandon the assembly and go after their own adventures.  Or, they hide in the corners not wanting to be seen, avoiding one another, even hurting and harming one another.  As sheep they follow after false shepherds – seeking greener pastures, yet all the while being led into the wilderness in order to be fleeced.   These are the souls who want more than Jesus, more than His Word and sacraments.  They want their best life now, or to be their better selves. They want happiness and joy and comfort and security and independence.    They are not content with the assembly, the flock.  They’re bored with Church, they covet the fun of this world’s depravity.  They want to run here, wander there, feed on this, drink down that.  They want to do what they want to do.  And so they follow voices that stroke their egos and listen to words that permit their sins.    But eventually the pastures fade.  The drink dries up.  The fun isn’t really fun, it hurts.  And the lost sheep of this world find they’re not only lost, they’re lonely and they’re slowing dying away.

Or, like lost coins, they embrace the darkness and avoid the light.   Their deeds are evil and they would rather not come into the light, they hate the light.  They’re afraid of the light, afraid of what will happen, afraid of God’s reaction, afraid of being judged, afraid of losing their friends, afraid of being abused by others, afraid of what they don’t know.  Fear torments their conscience.  Unbelief binds them to the shadows.  The soul weeps on the inside as the loneliness eats away at their hearts.

Such is the life of the lost.  There is no life apart from the Shepherd.  There is no joy outside of the light.  Wandering sheep and hiding coins deny their reality and desperately need the Word of God and the fellowship of His people.

The God who Seeks and Saves

The point of these parables however is not the condition of the sheep nor the coin.  It is the persistent seeking of the shepherd and the lady of the house.  Both are images of Jesus and each represents the ministry of Jesus who through His pastors and His Church seeks the lost of this world.    This is the stumbling block to the grumblers.  Our God delights in seeking and saving sinners, people just like you and me and those out there.  He loves it!  IT’s the whole reason God sent His Son Jesus being born flesh and blood.  It’s the whole reason we have Christmas and Good Friday and Easter.  The Pharisees have gotten God wrong and they’re grumbling about.  The sinners and tax collectors who also had gotten God wrong, are pleasantly surprised by His Grace and mercy.

Everyone should have known. You should have known, the world should have know.  From the very beginning God revealed Himself as a God who seeks and saves.  After all, it was Adam and Eve who wandered off, got lost and hid themselves away from the Lord.  They were not found where they were supposed to be.  They were at the right tree, the tree where God was to be for them.  Eating for the wrong tree, tasting death through sin they too were afraid.  And it was the Lord God walking about through the cool of the day searching and seeking after the two of them.  “Where are you?  What have you done?”

It is no different in our text and its no different today.  Jesus is God’s “where are you?” made flesh. His call to repentance and faith is the echo of God’s “what have you done?”.  Everywhere He goes, every time He preaches He is calling the lost to Himself, calling sinners to repentance, calling all people to faith. The Lord loves His creation. The Lord loves you.  And none of your hiding nor your silly attempts to get “figgy with it” and dress yourselves up on your own are able to alleviate your fears or comfort your loneliness.

The wages of your wandering, the cost of your hiding, the expense of your sin is death.  If you continue to wander you will die.  If you abandon the assembly and sever yourself from the good Shepherd you will die.  If you remain in the shadows you will die.  If you refuse the light you will die.  Jesus does not want you to die.  The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  He wants you to live, today,tomorrow and forever.  He has come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.  For through His life is eternal life for all who believe on His name.

His life is the cost of your salvation and the cause of your joy.  His life was given on the cross.  His life-blood was shed to cover over your sins.  It’s His death you have been baptized into.  Thus you have truly been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer you who live but the life you now live you live by faith in the Son of God who loves you and gave Himself up for you.  Being united to His death you are also united to His resurrection.  Christ is risen from the dead!  Jesus stepped out of the grave.  He crushed the serpents head with His death on the cross.   And He rolled away the stone holding us all in the shadows when He stepped up and out of the tomb on the third day.

The God who Restores to Community

Jesus has done all of this for you and me and for the whole world.  It’s not just for the good people. It’s not or those who try their best or work their hardest.  This is the grace of God outpoured.  No one is left out, no one abandoned, no one is ignored.  Jesus has come for sinners and tax collectors, for the wandering and the hiding, the sinner and the loner.

But wait . . . there’s more.  Jesus doesn’t just save you and then leave you wherever it was that he found you.  No . . . He saves you and bears you up on His should and carries you back to the fold.  He finds you in the dark corners of the world and shines the light of His Word on your hearts.   He restores you to the assembly.  He places you in His Church.  He gives you family, friends, brothers and sisters, a community, a communion of saints.  The redeemed are give a place to rest, a place to grow, a place and a people to enjoy according to God’s Word.  In this Church the Lord richly and daily forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  In this Church, this communion of saints we are all brothers and sisters and so closely united that a closer relationship cannot be conceived.  

For here in this place around this Word,

we share one Baptism,
worship One Christ,
receive one Supper,
Hear one Gospel,
confess the One Faith,
Are bound by the One Spirit,
Are part of the One Spiritual Body
And each is a member of the other.

We bear one another’s burdens, share one another’s sorrows.  We sing together, we pray together, we grieve together and we rejoice together.  When one member hurts we all hurt.  When member dies we all mourn. When another member is born again we all rejoice with the angels above.  No other brotherhood is so deeply rooted and so closely knit as Christ’s holy Church.

Joy at the Table – A Feast for all who come

Beloved in the Lord, the Pharisees grumbled while sinners and tax collectors were greeted with rejoicing in heaven.  Jesus eats with sinners!  What a scandal that is to the world, the wise the noble, the proud and the self-righteous!  But what a gospel it truly is to those us who were lost but now found!  What a God we have who would not abandon us but sent His Son to save us!  And with God the saving of sinners always leads to a meal.  There’s always more with Jesus.  He’s always giving more; more gospel, more mercy, more forgiveness, more of Himself. He is the gospel made flesh, the mercy of God given for you and me and the world.  And when He gathers a people near to Him He sets the table, provides the food, gives the drink and invites you  . . .  even . . . closer.  And our joy increases as we eat and drink with Jesus.  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


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