Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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PENTECOST 14 – September 15, 2019 – Luke 15:1-10 “REJOICING IN HEAVEN”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Gospel Lesson just read, from Luke 15.  We begin with prayer.


Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • There are quite interesting realities revealed in the Words of Jesus in our text. He speaks in response to a criticism, a judgment against Him.  The Pharisees and scribes – religious leaders – were angry, perhaps even saddened by Jesus’ behavior.  “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus.”  These religious leaders found this very distasteful and concluded correctly:  “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
  • What were they thinking? Probably that Jesus was aiding and abetting wretched and evil behavior.  Probably that Jesus was not calling people to repentance and change.  Likely also that Jesus was encouraging others to engage in whatever evils they wanted to do.  And of course, Jesus was doing all of this in the Name of God.  In their view, Jesus should have rejected and condemned these people as evil – and refused to have anything to do with them.
  • Jesus tells two parables in response to this criticism. The first contains two aspects that are contrary to human reason.  First, no shepherd would leave 99% of his flock “in the open country,” vulnerable to predators and thieves, just to recover 1%.   Second, at the end, Jesus hypothesizes that there might be 99 “righteous persons who need no repentance.”  This is a hypothetical that is not true.  We should  understand this to mean:  “Even if there were 99 righteous persons who needed no repentance, it would bring God and all the inhabitants of heaven greater joy if one person repented.”  And such “repentance” is understood to also include faith and trust in God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
  • While this may seem contrary to how human beings would act if they were in the place of God, Jesus is emphasizing that God is different. And what joy this should bring each of us – that Jesus “receives sinners and eats with them.”  For as the Scripture reveals, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Therefore this reality is the only hope that any of us can have. 
  • God is not like the Pharisees and scribes. The Pharisees and scribes were not what they thought they were.  They were not among the 99 righteous – in contrast to “sinners.”  They also were sinners – people whom God was seeking out, calling them back to Himself, to rejoin His flock. 
  • But because they didn’t repent, and thought there could be no joy in heaven over “sinners” even if the sinners did repent, therefore they could not know or understand God at all. Jesus reveals reality, and it is quite different than people think – thanks and praise be to God!  God is not overjoyed with “righteous people” who have no need to repent!  There are no such people!  But God is overjoyed when sinners – and that includes all of humanity – when sinners repent and embrace His forgiveness and salvation! 
  • And it is not only God, but all of the inhabitants of heaven, including the angels of God, who have this great joy. For these inhabitants of heaven know God, and know His heart, and know how much He rejoices when even one sinner repents and rejoins His family!  We are invited to participate in this same joy!  So let us consider that:


I.  There Is Rejoicing In Heaven That Sinners, The Lost, Are Welcomed By Jesus


Text:  “Just so, I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. . . .  I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Statement:  This is the fundamental and foundational reality taught by Jesus.  Sadly, it is unknown to many, many people.  It is especially unknown to adherents of other religions, and to many people even within Christian churches.  God wills all people to be saved, and to come to know the truth.  He loves the world!  Jesus is the blood atonement for the sins of the whole world! 


Application:  This opens the door for our repentance as well.  To honestly and openly confess our sins to God, knowing that He is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love, and eager to forgive us and receive us as His dear children and heirs of heaven, is a wonderful and freeing thing!  It restores our humanity!


So also, it restores us to a proper view of other people – not as “those horrible sinners,” but as people also loved by God, redeemed by Jesus, and desired by God and His angels for the kingdom of heaven.  We must take care not to adopt the posture of the Pharisees and scribes.


II.  So Also There Is Joy In Heaven That God’s Word Can Bring Repentance And Faith, Bringing People Back Into God’s Family


Romans 1:16  “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”


Rom. 10:17  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”


1 Peter 1:23  “You were born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the Word of God that lives and abides forever.”


Statement:  This is why church is so important!  Faith, including the strengthening of our faith, comes by hearing the Word of Christ.  This is also why our speaking of Christ to others is so important.  Through the Word of Christ people come to faith, and into the kingdom of God!  Whenever this happens it brings great joy to God, to the angels, and to all the inhabitants of heaven!


Application:  And we know the great joy that the Word of Christ, the message that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life, brings into our lives.  Of course we wish this same joy and blessedness for all people.  This is also why we support the congregation and why we also provide offerings for mission work as well.  It is why we support the University Lutheran Chapel. 


To know these things about God, about what really matters to Him, is comforting, freeing, and empowering!  And so we also must always remember that:


III.  Jesus’ Welcoming Of Sinners – Repentant And Believing Sinners – Is Our Hope Also, And Our Joy And Rejoicing


Text:  “This man receives sinners and eats with them. . . . I tell you there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Statement:  We too must always remember this – that no matter how bad our sin may be, or how often we commit sins, Jesus will still receive us if we come to Him in repentance.  He does not desire our destruction or damnation, and deplores the idea of anyone rejecting His love and salvation. 


Application:  So let us be sure that this is also our great joy and rejoicing always – that Jesus receives us and eats with us!  And let us take care to extend this same gracious acceptance, love, and care to other “sinners,” knowing how our dear Lord and Savior looks at them!


Conclusion:  Jesus does not “receive sinners” in such a manner as to affirm their sin, or to assert that sinning doesn’t matter to Him.  He makes clear that the joy in heaven is over one sinner “who repents.”  This makes clear to us, and to the Pharisees and scribes, what Jesus was teaching the “tax collectors and sinners.”  Namely, to repent and to believe the good news, the Gospel of God’s free gift of salvation! And also what He often asserted to those whom He healed and forgave:  “go and sin no more.”


The message should not be lost on us.  We too are called to repentance – as are all people, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Sadly, the Pharisees were in no condition to repent.  We must beware of ever falling into such a condition. 

But for all who are willing to acknowledge that we are “sinners,” and who are called to repentance, there is the great peace and joy of  knowing that God has no greater joy than to forgive us and bring us back to Himself.  This is His very nature, His very heart of love for each of us!  Amen.


Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.