In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus receives and eats with sinners.
Part of our problem is that that sentence doesn’t shock us. We are used to it. It rolls over us without sinking in, without us actually considering the implications. Consider what it means if substitute real categories of sinners for the word “sinners.” Instead of “Jesus receives sinners” consider “Jesus receives child pornographers.” “Jesus receives slave-traders.” “Jesus receives rapists.” Imagine seeing our Lord sitting down to fried chicken with the Klu Klux Klan! It is shocking. But the truth is Jesus is willing to receive, sit down and eat with, the likes of Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, Joseph Stalin, and Osama Bin Laden, if only they will repent.
It is a bit hard to take at first, but the Grace of God stops short of no man. He didn’t just die for the moderately decent, for the polite members of society, for people who meant well but made a few mistakes. He died for all. His death is enough to cover the sins of the worst, the ugliest and cruelest members of our race. He receives and eats with sinners without discrimination. It is a bit hard to take because we don’t want to be in that group (and because there is something ugly in us that wants some people to suffer and be punished.) We want some credit, some acknowledgment that at least we tried, that though we weren’t perfect we were better than most. Thus the path of the pharisees. Repent.
If Jesus is to receive and eat with you, you must not be too proud to keep company with sinners. You are a man of unclean lips and you dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. You have lived as if God did not matter, as though fooling men was good enough to fool Him. You have not honored His Name as you should. Your worship and your prayers have faltered. You have resisted His love. You have feared His exclusive claim on you, desiring instead the pleasures of the flesh and feeding your vanity. You have hurt your family and neighbors with gossip and slander, with sarcasm and vicious humor. You have failed to help those in need. Your thoughts, your words, and your deeds have been soiled with sin. You are a sinner. I know this is true, because God’s Word says that nothing shall overcome you that is not common to man. And I know what has overcome me. Repent. We have fallen far short of the Law’s just standard. We are guilty. We deserve damnation.
Repent – but do not despair. Damnation is what you deserve, but not what you get. For Jesus receives and eats with sinners! He suffered your damnation for you. He died not just for the notorious sinners, but also for the cowardly and lazy ones, for the dregs of society but also for the upper crust, and for everybody in between. Passing a camel through the eye of a needle is possible for the God who makes axe heads to float.
It is a bit hard to take at first, but then, what wonderful joy! You don’t have to prove yourself. You don’t have to earn your way. You don’t have to count your deeds or measure your faith. He provides everything. Jesus loves you. He loves you perfectly, without conditions or fine print, without limit. He loves you and forgives you because that is who He is and what He wants to do. There is nothing left to pay. He has made satisfaction for the sins of all men, reconciled them to His Father, put death to death and processed victorious out of the grave. His perfect life is substituted for yours. His perfect faith stands in your stead, pleads in His wounds to the Father and the Spirit on your behalf. His perfect love fulfills all the law for you.
He receives and eats with sinners! Blessed be His Name. He provides the Food we need both for the support of this body and life and that which feeds and sustains the soul unto life everlasting: His pierced Body triumphant from the tomb; His precious Blood that shed forth to wash mankind clean, for you to eat and to drink. Our Lord is the Lord of Creation and has joined Himself to creation in becoming a Man. He took up our Flesh to make a physical and spiritual sacrifice of Himself for our sins. He is still physical. He rose from the dead in His Body. He ascended in that Body to His Father’s right hand. Still, He comes to us in that Body. For that Body, the Man Jesus, is united to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is true God. He is not limited by time and space. He comes to us this day as the exalted God-Man, Our Savior, Our Kinsman-Redeemer in the Flesh, alive out of death, crucified and risen. He comes in this Body for us to eat, to be joined to Him physically and spiritually, for the washing of our sins and cleansing of our hearts. In the Sacrament of the Altar Jesus receives and eats with sinners, changing them, transforming them, renewing them. In the Sacrament of the Altar, Jesus receives and eats with you. You have nothing left of which to be ashamed, to feel guilty about, or to fear. Jesus loves you. That is enough.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana