"Jesus Receives Sinners like You and Me!" - Pastor Mike Larsen
As Jesus associated with the marginalized, the religious leaders of the day did not like this. In Luke’s Gospel, the Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’s day grumbled that sinners were coming to Jesus. In Luke 15:2, the Pharisees and scribes were criticizing Jesus saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2.
This criticism inspired Jesus to tell a series of parables. He talks about things that were lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and the lost sons. There is rich meaning to these parables, which isn’t the focus. But the end point of the parables is that there is joy over the lost being found. The Pharisees grumbled because Jesus was filled with joy to be surrounded by broken and lost who were found. The Pharisees were the ultimate separatists. The Pharisees didn’t count sinners as worthy. They thought Jesus’s sinner friends needed to look more holy to be counted worthy among the religious community. But Jesus welcomes sinners and bestows dignity, value, and worth on them. Every human being, regardless of their particular sin struggle, dignity, value, and worth because they is made in the image and likeness of God. The parable of the lost coin teaches us many things, which we won’t go into here, but if it teaches us anything, it teaches us how precious we are to God.
Jesus says, “what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost’” (Luke 15:8–9). The value that this woman placed on her lost coin shows the great value that God places on each and every human being.
I am a collector of certain rarities. As anyone who knows anything about coin collecting can tell you, it’s not so much the material of the coin that makes it valuable, but the image that is stamped on it. Take for instance the 1836 U.S. Gobrecht Liberty Seated Silver Dollar. The coin weighs .7734 troy ounce. The last time I looked at the market, silver was valued at $17.34 an ounce. Just recently this coin sold for more than $110,000. You see, what is significant is not the amount of silver but the image stamped on the coin. If nothing was stamped on that coin, it would be worth about $13. What makes this coin valuable is the image that is stamped on it.
Likewise, every man woman and child, from every tribe tongue and nation, is made in the image and likeness of our King Jesus. Everyone has been stamped with his likeness. All people from every race, every gender, no matter their particular sin or sexual preference, no matter religion, and socioeconomic background, all people bear a royal image of God, and this gives all people tremendous dignity, worth, and value that surpassed all other creatures regardless of our sinful choices.
The Good News Is That Jesus Receives Sinners Like You and Me! But he is also coming for sinners who are not like you and me. To pursue holiness and be like Christ is to reach out to all people even those that are different than us. My prayer is that are churches grow from prodigals coming to faith from every tribe town and nation. God forbid if after they get saved we disciple them into self-righteous separatist like the Pharisees and scribes.
The truth is every church has Pharisees and scribes—self righteous older brothers who are only found grumbling? Don’t be afraid of them. Love them and correct them.
Jesus loved the Pharisees and scribes that’s why he took the time to share these parables with the hope of correcting them. Pray for the outcast, the oppressors and the oppressed will be drawn to you and your churches. Not because we condone their sin. But because we refuse to condemn anyone for their sin. Enough blood has been shed for sin on the cross of Jesus. Let’s believe in finished work on the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ frees us to be like Jesus loving, kind, compassionate, graceful, and merciful. I pray we would value all people so much that they’re willing to light a lamp and get into the dirty until they are found. Jesus delighted in seeking and saving the lost. Be More Like Jesus.
HOW TO PRAY:
Ask God to show you if or where you have been acting out of self-righteousness
Pray that God would show you who the marginalized are in the community of Bellflower. Then ask him how he wants you to care for them.
Luke 15:1-10 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
About the Author: Mike serves as the Lead Pastor of Encounter Christian Church in Bellflower, CA. Husband to his amazing wife Sheila. Father of Daniel, Steven, and Mikey and grandfather to Cenovia Rae. (More writing by Pastor Mike Larsen can be found in his book: Thanks for Asking)