O God, teach us to know Your mercy. Amen.
Text: Luke 15:1–10
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Lowly and small are we human beings compared to the Almighty God. What difference could it make to Him if He were to lose one of us? A shepherd would be 1% poorer by losing one of his 100 sheep, but would God really be poorer by losing you or me? Are we not an infinitesimal bit of all His wealth? Or would my absence cause some break in the circle of the blessed around His throne? Would heaven’s choir be incomplete if my voice were missing? Certainly God is just as rich and blessed without us, but still He loves us so much that He is not willing to lose us for any price. There is no sorrow in heaven over the loss of one person, for there is no sorrow in heaven, but there is joy in heaven over each sinner who is saved. It is God’s unspeakable love for us in Christ that does this. So infinitesimally small we are, compared to God, and so lowly we have become by our deep fall, yet we are still most valuable to Him according to His mercy in creation, redemption, and sanctification. For we are created in God’s image and are the flower of His works, we are redeemed with the life and blood of the only-begotten Son to be “His own special people,” and God the Holy Spirit has made us His temple. It has pleased the holy triune God to love me, to give me His heart from eternity. Therefore I am also formed to love, and to receive His love in me. So it is the devil’s most malicious desire to destroy us, but God’s highest delight to save us.
“All publicans and sinners drew near to Jesus to hear Him,” and He never sent one of them away. He never rejected one poor sinner. His enemies wanted to say something evil about Him, but they had to praise His office as Savior: “He receives sinners and eats with them.” He left His blessed heavenly host and came to earth to save us. When He uses the picture of a shepherd who left the 99 and goes into the wilderness after the one lost sheep until He finds it, and then lays it on His shoulders rejoicing, and carries it home, or the picture of the woman who cannot find her lost coin, but frantically keeps sweeping until she finds it, and when He adds: “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” – then He shows us that our salvation is dearer to His heart than anything else. Diligently He seeks the straying, willingly He receives the repentant, gladly He saves everyone who is found by Him. Listen to this, everyone! Are you still living in sin? Jesus is looking for you and wants to carry you back. You no longer have to go homeless in the wilderness. Stop and listen to the voice of the heavenly Shepherd! If you repent, Jesus gladly receives you. Believe His love and grace. It is a thousand times greater than your sin. You cannot believe it is as great as it really is. – If He seeks us with such fervent desire, should we then run from Him into the devil’s power? Shouldn’t we run to Him and like frightened sheep, hunted by death and the devil, throw ourselves into His saving arms?
Lord Jesus, we are so blind and so wicked! Draw us to You, and show us Your love! Draw us to You and show us Your ardent love for us, so that it may overcome, melt, and heal our heart. Amen.
Jesus, Your mercy is so great,
I humbly fall before Your feet,
O let me find Your grace.
I am Your lamb that wandered wild,
My sin and guilt have me beguiled;
O save me from disgrace.
I wandered far from You, dear Lord,
And came so near hell’s open door;
Help me now to repent.
Now bring me safe to Your embrace;
My sin and punishment erase;
I pray Your grace be sent!
Lord Jesus Christ, now take me in
And let me find relief within
Your wounds and piercéd side.
Release me from the bonds of sin;
Your Spirit grant new strength begin,
That I in life abide.
Laurenti: Stor, Jesus, er din miskundhed L 468 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Kommt her zu mir (ELH 375); alternate hymn: Jesus sinners doth receive ELH 426