Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Luke 15:1-10

When Jesus comes, everything gets cleaned up. When something is not getting done which needs to be done, you take it into your own hands. That’s what Jesus does. This is what makes the Pharisees grumble against Him. Jesus is calling sinners to himself. He seeks and saves the lost. The Pharisees and the scribes, the leaders of Israel, the ones who knew the law, were supposed to be doing this.

The Pharisees are like Saul in the Old Testament account of David and Goliath. Remember David and Goliath? David, the little shepherd boy, with five smooth stones and a sling is able to defeat the giant Goliath, the enemy of God’s people. David relies on God for strength and is given the victory. That’s not the whole story. Goliath the giant had been taunting God’s people on the battlefield for forty days and no one came forward, no champion came to fight him. Israel had a champion, they had a king, a man a head taller than any other, named Saul. Yet Saul was afraid. He would not fight the giant, but the boy who was far too small for Saul’s armor would and defeated him. So Saul became angry and jealous of David, rather than repenting, realizing his failure and seeing God still save through David. The Pharisees also do not appreciate Jesus, but are angry that he is gathering people to himself.

Instead they grumble against Jesus – “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Jesus was truly becoming intimate with many known sinners, eating with them, speaking with them, becoming their friends. How good to know that Jesus does not turn sinners away! Your sin does not deter Jesus for you, he comes to forgive and save. The Pharisees saw Jesus with sinners and thought, “ah, birds of a feather flock together! Bad company corrupts good morals!” Many times, they are right, these sayings are true. But a doctor is not sick because he hangs around the sick. Or a teacher is not uneducated because he is around the uneducated all day. These people have an office, a job, a reason they are around those in need. In an even greater way, fulfilling his office, Jesus receives sinners and eats with them.

For Jesus has come to clean things up. The Sauls, the Pharisees, the rulers of this would who suppose they follow God have left things in disarray. Jesus comes as the new and greater David. David was the shepherd boy who defeated Goliath and became king and shepherd of his people. Jesus, his descendant and also his Lord, is the true and greater king and shepherd, for He shepherds the souls of all men.

What man, having one hundred sheep, would leave ninety-nine to find the lost one? Maybe many men would cut their losses and watch over the ninety-nine they still have. Jesus is not one of those. Jesus seeks out the lost sheep. A lost sheep is completely unable to help itself. It is in total distress until someone saves it. Maybe as the sheep wanders off it does not realize it at first, but soon it comes to see its wretched state. There is nothing it can do until the shepherd comes, pulls it out of the pit, releases it from the briars, puts it on his shoulders and tenderly carries it home. Jesus cleans things up – brings the lost sheep back to the flock.

For as the prophet Isaiah says, all have gone astray like sheep. In your sin, you have all wandered away from God. Your heart is set not to follow your shepherd, but to wander on your own, to do your own things. So you sin against God and seek things for yourself before Him. But then the law comes to you. You see how you have opposed and ignored God. You see how there is nothing you can do to get out of your position. Then Jesus comes with His gospel. Jesus comes to those who realize their fallen state, that they are sheep stuck in briars who wish to return to the fold. Jesus comes to the sheep in the pit of continual sin who tries and tries but cannot free himself. Jesus comes with forgiveness and reaches down and takes you on his shoulders.

For Jesus to clean things up, to set things right, he must bear your burden on his shoulders. He has done this work on the cross, taking on your sin. There is no more condemnation for going astray, for he takes the punishment on himself. Jesus has done all the work to clean things up and make things right between you and God, for God sent him to do this. And now there is great joy in heaven for the sinners who return.

You were not created to be lost. Like the lost coin, you have an imprint – the imprint of God’s image. He made you his own. Even though you were lost, he claims you as his own. In baptism you are found and washed so God’s imprint is made clear. His name is put on you, the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He sends the woman to find you, the church, to baptize you, to give you all the gifts of Christ through the Word and Sacraments. As Christ works through those means of grace, everything is getting cleaned up and made right.

For those who Christ saves and brings back, there is great rejoicing. Like both parables, our Lord calls together all friends and neighbors, all those in the church and the heavenly host and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost…Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.

Therefore, do not be like the ninety-nine who need no repentance. These do not truly need no repentance, but think they need no repentance. They think they do not need Jesus to be good. They think they were never lost. They never would think of themselves as lost sheep. If you are not a lost sheep, the shepherd will not come save you. Jesus comes only for sinners. Repent, realize your need, and He will bear you up in his arms.

For those who think you are too lost of a sheep, that Jesus would never come back for you – He will. It is what He is here to do. There is no pit too deep he cannot pull you out of. There is no bramble to thick he cannot cut his way through. Our crucified Jesus is also the risen and ascended Jesus who has power over all creation. Nothing can hide you from him or his forgiveness.

Though you may be faithless and wandering, Jesus is faithful. He seeks you out. He delights to find and carry you in his arms. He delights to forgive. This is why He was sent. To take your sins and cast them into the depths of the sea. He has taken the salvation of the world, and especially your salvation, into his own hands. In Jesus, everything will be cleaned up, washed in the baptismal waters and the Word. The flock will be made complete. The coin will be found. The kingdom restored. Most of all, there is great joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

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