Trinity 3 (Lk 15; Micah 7, 18–20; 1 Tim 1, 12–17)

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Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || VIDEO

“This guy welcomes sinners and eats with them!”

INI + AMEN.

That’s what the Lord Jesus does. Gets Him in trouble with the religious types. He doesn’t do religion the way He’s supposed to. In the wrong crowd. Doing the wrong thing. It’s all backwards to what a proper spiritual leader would do. It’s upside down from what religious, good people expect from God.

He does what He does because the Lord’s salvation is complete and total. It’s His salvation, and it’s His from start to finish. Jesus the beginning and completion of salvation. He doesn’t just get the ball rolling. He doesn’t carry the ball of your heart into the end zone at the goal line if you would only hand it off to Him. No, start to finish—His salvation.

“He passes over”—forgives—“transgression,” and “He subdues our iniquities,” too. That’s Micah! The Lord does it. He forgives our sins. He keeps them in check, under control. (MT) He “drowns them” (LXX). “[He] sends all [our] sins into the depths of the sea.”

But who’s this salvation for? It’s easy, but’s really the offensive part of it all. Offensive to a world that doesn’t allow for mercy and forgiveness but only cancels and tears down. It’s what gets Jesus in trouble not just with the clergy of His day, but also with the people who apparently have their spiritual life in order and demand others do the same. Who’s it for? Well, “All the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to listen to Him.”

Who’s this salvation for? Sinners!

((2. Jesus saves sinners.))

Yes, Jesus saves sinners. That’s what He does. He’s Savior from sin. “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He’s Savior and Friend of sinners. Baptized with sinners’ baptism. “Numbered with the transgressors.” But what kind of sinners, transgressors? Sinners who get their lives in order? Sinners who turn it around? Sinners who do enough feeling sorry and making up for what they’ve done? Those who repent enough. Those who do enough? Those who are good enough now even though they were bad then?

No. Sinners like tax collectors: who were traitors to their countrymen, and who often stole from them. Sinners like well “sinners”—those people, prostitutes, even. Sinners who run off from the 99 and get themselves lost. Sinners who roll into some dark corner and can’t do anything to be found. Sinners who live as if God didn’t matter and as if they matter most. Sinners who want to live as if God’s dead—like the younger, prodigal son. Self-righteous sinners who want nothing to do with other sinners—like the Pharisees and Scribes, like the older, outwardly faithful son. Sinners like Paul who was an unbeliever, who persecuted the Church, who resisted the Lord and His Word at every turn. Sinners like you. Sinners like me.

Sinners of every stripe and severity. Sinners from all times and places. Sinners who sin before faith. Sinners who sin after faith. Sinners who sin up until their dying breath. Sinners who never quite measure up to their own expectations, let alone God’s expectations. Sinners who justify their actions before others and before God. Sinners who try to make up for their sins. Sinners who can’t possibly make up for their sins—just too bad. And sinners who don’t try to make up for their sins. Sinners like you. Sinners like me. Those are the sinners Jesus saves.

That’s why Jesus came into the world. It’s why He was born of the Virgin Mary. “For us and our salvation He came down from heaven.” He wins salvation for sinners—“was crucified FOR US under Pontius Pilate.” He suffered for sinners, bearing their curse of the Law, their death sentence, their sin in His own body on the tree—“by His wounds you are healed.” He shed His blood for sinners—“redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” He died for sinners, and was “raised for our justification,” Justification is our completely, 100% innocent verdict before God. That’s how Jesus saves sinners. He the true fattened calf, put to death for you.

He delivers His salvation, too, His forgiveness. He saves sinners by dying for them in order to win forgiveness of sins for them—FOR YOU, sinner. You are saved. You are forgiven. Because that’s what Jesus does for sinners—only sinners. He saves them, forgives them.

((Transition.))

But that’s not all the Lord does for sinners. He doesn’t just go after them. Chasing them down with the word of forgiveness. (Using you and me as His mouthpieces, of course.) No, He joins with them, hangs out with them. He welcomes them to His table, and He eats with them!

((1. Jesus hosts a party for sinners!))

In fact, He doesn’t just eat with them. Some simple meal. No, He hosts a party for sinners! That’s the reoccurring theme in His parables. Not just sinners being found, being welcomed back as true sons of God. Sure, that’s there, too. Sheep that god itself lost—found. Coin that’s stuck somewhere—found. Son who rejected all sonship—“My son who was dead is alive, was lost and now is found.”

But then what happens? There’s a party! “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate,” the dad says “Rejoice with me” the shepherd says. “Rejoice with me” the woman says. “Eat and drink” Jesus says. He wants to party with sinners. For Jesus that’s His victory celebration. For God that’s His Feast of Victory, that sinners are gathered around Him at His table: eating, drinking, rejoicing.

He gives to them, and doesn’t demand from them. The Triune God of the Scriptures, who reveals Himself in Jesus, the Son, is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” But here’s the point where people—sinners!—could get their smoldering wicks snuffed out, their bruised reeds snapped in two. Christian churches demanding of their works, demanding of their money, demanding of their personal repentance, their personally worked out perfection and holiness, and promising if they do all the right steps God will be happy with them, and bless them now and forever.

Not so the Lord. “He passes over”—forgives—“transgression,” and “He subdues our iniquities,” too. That’s Micah! The Lord does it. He forgives our sins. He keeps them in check, under control. (MT) Our problem is we don’t want Him to do. We’d rather keep cracking at it. No, He “drowns them” (LXX). “[He] sends all [our] sins into the depths of the sea.” And then He calls sinners to His table, to His Supper.

And what does this Supper do for sinners? Well, gives them joy. Sins are forgiven! Sinners—only sinners—have communion with Jesus! That’s just what Jesus wants with sinners: Communion—a Holy Communion—with them. If you’ve got your sins worked out on your own, then you not only don’t need Jesus, then you don’t need His Supper. What’s the point if you can live good enough on your own?

But if you’ve got sins, Jesus wants you at His Table, His Supper. For there He delivers His body and blood to you for the forgiveness of your sins, “where there is forgiveness of sins there is also [new] life and [eternal] salvation.” In and through His Supper Jesus teaches us “to love God and our neighbor.” In the Supper of His Body and Blood, Jesus unites Himself to sinners—you!—and sinners—you!—to Himself. And when you’re with Him and He with you, “He will subdue our iniquities.”

((Conclusion.))

Today, Jesus tells the story three times! There’s a party! He’s the host of the party. It got Him trouble. “This guy welcomes sinners and eats with them.” But that’s exactly what Jesus wants. It’s why He came: to save sinners, to die—“slaughtered”—and rise for them. But also to bring them, welcome them, have communion with them at His Table. His body and blood given and shed for sinners. You, too! You eat and drink. They are for you, He says.

LET THE PARTY BEGIN: JESUS SAVES SINNERS!

That’s what this is all about for Jesus. For God this is the feast of victory. “Whose blood”—only His blood—“sets us free to be people of God.” Alleluia!

LET THE PARTY BEGIN: JESUS SAVES SINNERS!

INI + AMEN.

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