The Sacred Scriptures call out to you. The Lord’s slave invites you to the dinner with the words those Scriptures give him. His message leads you to say to God: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. See my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.” For the message of the slave is this: God and sinners are reconciled!
Charles Wesley gets it right in his great Christmas carol. God and sinners are reconciled. That’s exactly what the angels are singing about. We sing it too: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace good will toward men.” God is glorified because peace is made with men. God is glorified because mankind now has His good will. God and sinners were at war, but now they are at peace, reconciled by Christ Jesus Himself.
That’s what today’s Gospel is about. It’s not about a sheep getting lost or a woman losing a coin. How do you know that? A normal shepherd would not leave his 99 sheep alone at great risk to just find 1 sheep who might already have fallen off a cliff or been eaten by a wolf. We might not bother to pick up a dropped penny instead of going to all the trouble that lady did to find her coin. Most importantly, we would never throw a big party; it just wouldn’t be cost effective. The party would cost far more than the coin is worth and the sheep wouldn’t provide enough meat for the food.
Jesus tells us what this is about when He tells us heaven rejoices and God’s angels have great joy when a sinner repents. This is about you. This is about you coming to faith. This is about you coming here to confess your sins and be absolved. This is about you going to people you sinned against and telling them you are truly sorry for what you did or said.
We see this clearly in the parable that follows, The Prodigal Son. The younger son left home with his share of the inheritance even though dad was still alive and well. He took off and lost it all. He degraded himself until he was worse than a pig. Finally he came to his senses and went home. He asked to be just a slave, but dad made him his son again. The son was truly sorry for how he had sinned against his father. He had wished he were dead! That means he not only dishonored dad and stole from him but he also killed him in his heart. But the father forgave him, restored him to sonship, gave him a new share in the inheritance, and loved him happily ever after and threw a big party too, much to big brother’s chagrin.
Is that you? It is you! But you haven’t stolen from your parents or wished them any harm, have you? But have you treated your heavenly Father that way? The word for “lost” in Greek also means “perished.” Is that what you should be in God’s sight? Should He rejoice over you? Or should He let you perish that you be lost to Him forever?
Should we perish? The Introit begged Him to turn His face to us and have mercy on us for we are desolate and afflicted. It begged Him to see our afflictions and pain and get rid of them by forgiving our sins, while the Gradual told us to cast our burdens on Him. Afflictions and pain and desolation – do we have much of that? We might have physical pain, but I don’t know if we’re sore afflicted by anything or desolate.
What is David describing? He’s describing the sinner overwhelmed by his sins. That’s the burden you need to cast on The LORD! The sinner may feel like he’s suffering hell already in this life for his sins, recognizing his sufferings will be far magnified in the death of the world to come. The worst part of it all? God’s face is turned away from you. There’s a reason The Benediction says The LORD makes His face shine on you and lifts up His countenance on you, which means He looks on you with favor. It says this because in hell these things don’t happen. And that’s where you belong.
Why? Micah said it is because of your transgressions and iniquities. The general term we use all the time is “sins.” You transgress God’s Law when you violate it, when you go beyond the bounds of what it allows us to do. You either do something you shouldn’t do or don’t do something you should do. Iniquities follow transgressions. A criminal breaks the law and he gets a guilty sentence from the courts. We break God’s Law and we immediately get a guilty sentence – no “innocent until proven guilty” here! We deserve to be lost, to perish eternally.
So somebody needed to find you. Somebody needed to rescue you from perishing. That Somebody is God Himself. He went searching until He found what He was looking for. He made straight the path that leads to Him. He lit the light to get your attention. How did He do this? He did it when He died. The shepherd and the woman went to such trouble to find what they were missing, but Christ worked something far more terribly difficult. Their strenuous actions point directly to His Passion, to His Suffering and Death. He perished in your place. He lost His Father’s favor – for The Father forsook His Son.
But The Son rose from the dead. He did not perish eternally. Death could not hold God. It had to let Him go. Sin could not convict Him. It had to declare Him not guilty. Since He bore your sin, you are declared not guilty. Since He suffered your death, you are promised the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. “Baptized into [His] precious Name, [Your] faith cannot be put to shame, And [you] shall never perish” (TLH 377:7).
But don’t think you have to make all the effort to get it. No, He comes to you. He sent out His Spirit to find you. He’s sent out His preachers to announce to you what He has done for you. That’s how He finds us. He doesn’t speak to us in any other way but through His Word, The Sacred Scriptures, and this is what His preachers are supposed to preach to you. They preach to you The Law. Why? Because if you don’t know just how sinful you are, you won’t appreciate your Savior. You are to be convicted of sin, convicted to death. Then you are to be brought back to life with The Gospel. Jesus has come to you, breathed into you eternal life, and you are found. You are His own dear child, a sheep of The Good Shepherd.
So The Lord shines His face on you. He favors you. When you sin against Him, turn to Him in true repentance. Be sorry for your sin and believe He will forgive you. He will not turn His face away from you. He will not forsake you eternally in hell because He did that to His Son when He hung upon the tree. Cast your burden on Him and He will sustain you, for He cares for you. Call to Him and He will save you because He delivers our souls from hell with His peace.
And rejoice! Rejoice that He has found you. Rejoice that He has not left you to hell’s eternal bonds but has delivered you to holy pleasures eternal. Rejoice that you have a Rock and Fortress and Deliverer Who shields you from the roaring lion who wants to devour you. Rejoice and resist Him, steadfast in The Faith, knowing eternal life is yours and whatever you suffer is just a glorious taste of what your Savior did for you. Rejoice that God Himself is your Protector, your Ruler, and your Guide through this life, for He will have mercy on you so that after you have finished this temporal life you will gain life eternal.