The Pharisees and scribes hurled their statement as a sarcastic barb; but we hear it as kindly praise. They meant it as a cruel insult; but we hear it as a joyous compliment. They sought to expose a fraud; but we hear the revelation of a merciful Savior. They were being condescending; but with their words we are lifted up and exalted. For this is most certainly true: Our Lord Jesus receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And for us men and for our salvation, it is good that He does so. For those who promote themselves as worthy, those who think they are deserving, those who insist they are not sinners—they stand before Our Lord not in humility, but in pride; not in repentance, but with indifference; not willing to submit all and sacrifice all, but interested only in getting theirs and what they are cocksure they are entitled to. But those who broken and contrite in heart, Our Lord does not despise. He hears and helps those who cry to Him out of the depth of their anguish and misery. Our Lord does not turn away, but embraces those who take up their cross and follow Him. And just as He scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts and has put down the mighty from their seat, so He also has exalted the humble and meek and fills the hungry with good things. For, in His own words, Our Lord came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Let us ... take to heart that, for our sake, Our Lord ignores the murmuring and insults of the self-righteous. And He does not disdain to be with us sinners, to welcome us to His table and to eat with us. He has purposefully and determinedly sought us out. He has brought us to this time and place, and has placed before us the sacred things that minister to our salvation. In fact, He has not only sat down with us, but He has set the table. And at this holy table, He serves up His own flesh and blood to be our meat and drink.
So it is not just that Our Lord Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. He also feeds us—with the food that is truly His own immaculate Body, and that this is truly His own precious Blood.
That we may worthily and in true faith sit with Our Lord and accept His loving embrace, let us pray that He have mercy upon us, and forgive us our transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance; and that He make us worthy to partake without condemnation of His immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of our sins and unto life everlasting. For to Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with His all-merciful Father in the unity of His life-giving and all-holy Spirit, belongs all glory, honor and worship, throughout all ages of ages.
"This is most certainly true" indeed, Father John! If only more of our Lutheran preachers could articulate the Gospel with this kind of evangelical clarity. Pax tecum!
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