“This man receives sinners!” (Luke 15:2)
Nothing gave greater offense to the scribes and Pharisees than the divine mission of Jesus to save sinners. No greater and more virulent accusation could they allege against him, than that, he extended his compassionate regards to the vile and the wretched, admitting the most flagrant offenders to his mercy, and inviting the most notorious sinners to his fellowship. And yet this, his greatest reproach, was his highest honor. Pluck this jewel from his mediatorial crown, and it has lost its costliest gem. Extract this note from the “joyful sound,” and you have hushed its sweetest melody. Remove this object of his mission from his coming, and you have reduced his incarnation, sufferings, and death to a gigantic waste.
Oh, with what glory does the fact that, “This man receives sinners,” invest the Son of God! How should our hearts glow with gratitude, praise, and love! If the individual who makes two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, is regarded as a public benefactor; if we deck the person of him who, at the risk of his own, saves the life of another, what shall we feel towards the Son of God who, in the plenitude of his compassion and love, bowed the heavens, and came down to save countless myriads of our race from the “bitter pains of eternal death!”
Yes, “he receives sinners.” He receives them as sinners — lost, undone, self-destroyed sinners — sinners too vile and too helpless to save themselves — who, if he does not save them, never can be saved. He receives sinners of all conditions and of every hue, of every depth of guilt and character of crime.
Oh, if there were a sinner out-sinning all sinners — every sin tainting, every crime attaching to him — an abandoned profligate, an unbelieving scorner, a reviling blasphemer, a red-handed murderer, a profane infidel, a daring atheist, a moral parricide whose transgressions have broken a mother’s heart and bowed a father’s gray hairs in sorrow to the grave — sins as scarlet and red as crimson — as a cloud for darkness, and as the sands on the sea shore for multitude — if, I say, there be such a one whom he would not save, and could not save, then would there be silence in heaven and exultation in hell at the announcement that Jesus Christ had ceased to save to the uttermost bounds of sin and guilt all who, in penitence and faith, came to God through him.
It follows, then, that, receiving them just as they are, he receives them freely, apart from all fitness or worthiness, of their own. “By grace are you saved.” (Eph. 2:8) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24) “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31) What a joyful sound! Come, then, O my soul, to Jesus, without hesitation or delay.
Just as I am I and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To him whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Assured of the fact that you yourself have come to Jesus and are saved, be it your aim to bring others to him, that they may be saved too. Oh, live and labor, if need be, suffer and die for him, whose greatest glory is, that he receives and saves sinners, who has received and saved you!
“He receives sinners.” Hear it, you that are afar off, wandering in ignorance and sin. Hear it, you who, amid the tortures of a guilt-oppressed conscience, are inquiring, “What must I do to obtain mercy and forgiveness?” hear it, you who once walked in the way of holiness, but have turned aside to sin and folly. Hear it, you who are resigning yourselves to dark despair, tempted to terminate a present misery by the self-infliction of a future, a more fearful and interminable one. Oh, hear it, all you poor and wretched, you humble and penitent, you broken-hearted and burdened — “This man receives sinners, and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)