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Jesus welcomes sinners
A man is known by the company he keeps
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Luke 15).
Jesus' critics did not realize what a marvelous truth they were expressing when they complained about the company he kept. They hoped to discredit and silence him, but in fact they were giving a wonderful summary of the gospel: "This man welcomes sinners."
They are precious to him
God has everything, needs nothing, cannot be diminished or impoverished by what people do or fail to do. Still, he feels a loss when human beings go their own rebellious way, ignore his will and word, walk on the path that leads to destruction. This was evident in all his Son did during his work on earth, including his meals with tax collectors and notorious sinners.
The Pharisees did not have a gospel for sinners. They did not believe there could be any good news for such outcasts from society. They actually taught: "There is joy before God when those who provoke him perish from the world." It was natural for them to condemn Jesus for his interest in and love for the lost. "He goes to the wrong places, eats with the wrong people. A man is known by the company he keeps."
Are we like the Pharisees? "No," we say, "we are not puffed up, do not look down on other people that way, are not self-righteous." But do we find it possible to write people off and act as though they did not exist? Are we able to think of some individuals or groups as inferior, unimportant, not really needed in the human race? There is more of the spirit of the Pharisees than of the spirit of Christ in that.
Jesus lets us know that all the things the world approves and applauds and accepts do not cause as much joy in heaven as the repentance of one sinner. That is what he told the Pharisees and it is written for our learning. God and his angels rejoice in all the righteous, but their greatest joy is reserved for those who were lost and are found.
He spared no cost to rescue them
Jesus did not just care about sinners. He acted. He came and sought them out, kept company with them. He did not condone their sins or agree to overlook them. No, he reminded them of where their sins were leading them. He called them to repentance. He invited them to follow him and learn from him. Then, carrying their sins--and ours--he made the supreme sacrifice. The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.
His perfect life has been credited to us. His innocent death is the sacrifice for our sins. This is ours by grace through faith. He has invited careless, loveless, thoughtless people like us to eat at his table, be members of his family, enjoy his company forever.
He has also given us the privilege and the responsibility to say what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law
said--but to speak it as a message of hope and invitation: "Jesus welcomes sinners."
Richard Balge is dean of students and teaches church history and homiletics at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.
Author: Richard D. Balge
Volume 79, Number 7
Issue: April 1992
Volume 79, Number 7
Issue: April 1992
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2009
Permission is granted for a single personal copy of an article. Additional copyright information is available at Northwestern Publishing House.
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