I, a sinner

Our hymn of the day for this Sunday, “Jesus Sinners Doth Receive” is a textbook example of solid Gospel proclamation.  It is chosen for this Sunday because it is an excellent supplement and response to the Gospel text from Luke 15:

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Notice the criticism that the Pharisees have of Jesus in verse 2, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  This hymn takes the concept of Jesus receiving sinners, expands it to include a deep biblical understanding of what that means, and applies it to the ones singing the hymn (that’s us).

Here’s stanza 1:

Jesus sinners doth receive;

Oh, may all this saying ponder

Who in sin’s delusions live

And from God and heaven wander!

Here is hope for all who grieve:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

This first stanza is directly aimed at all who have sinned. It reminds me of 1st John 1:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

You will not find a statement that is much more relevant and applicable to our contemporary world than the one in the third and fourth lines, “Who in sin’s delusions live and from God and heaven wander!”  This first stanza calls out to a dying world, a world where relativism, atheism, and false religions lead billions astray through their delusions. There is hope despite this grim situation, because Jesus receives sinners.

Stanza 2:

We deserve but grief and shame,

Yet His words, rich grace revealing,

Pardon, peace, and life proclaim;

Here our ills have perfect healing.

Firmly in these words believe:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

Here in stanza 2 we see what we deserve for going astray from God. We deserve only grief and shame and death and an eternity apart from God. The hymnwriter, however, only gives us two lines of law before placing the Gospel before us. God’s words reveal that through Him we have pardon for all of our sins. We have the peace that is beyond all understanding. We have eternal life. We have been healed from the disease of sin and we are set free from sin, death, and the power of the devil. What a miraculous transformation, and all because Jesus receives sinners!

Stanza 3:

Sheep that from the fold did stray

No true shepherd e’er forsaketh;

Weary souls that lost their way

Christ, the Shepherd, gently taketh

In His arms that they may live:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

Here the hymn writer, Erdmann Neumeister, uses the imagery from the second part of the Gospel reading. Jesus is the good shepherd, and he actively pursues the sheep who go astray. He does not desire the death of a sinner, but in His love pursues us and keeps us safe in His arms.

Stanza 4:

I, a sinner, come to Thee

With a penitent confession.

Savior, mercy show to me;

Grant for all my sins remission.

Let these words my soul relieve:
Jesus sinners doth receive.

With the first line, the author takes all that has been said up this point in the hymn and applies it directly to me. “I, a sinner,”. I am the sinner who has strayed from the fold of God and been deceived by the delusions of sin. I am the one deserving of eternal death. As a sinner, I come before God begging for mercy and remission of sins. I come without any merit or worthiness of my own, but I come knowing this: Jesus receives sinners.

Stanza 5:
Oh, how blest it is to know:

Were as scarlet my transgression,

It shall be as white as snow

By Thy blood and bitter passion;

For these words I now believe:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

What joy and comfort and pure Gospel we find in this stanza! Our sins, which were as scarlet, will be made as white as snow by the blood and bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase “white as snow” means nothing other than that we are completely forgiven of every sin we have ever committed.  Jesus not only receives sinners, he forgives them.

Stanza 6

Now my conscience is at peace;

From the Law I stand acquitted.

Christ hath purchased my release

And my ev’ry sin remitted.

Naught remains my soul to grieve:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

We now have peace because we are forgiven. Neumeister wrote a wonderful hymn on the joy and assurance we have as baptized children of God called “God’s own child I gladly say it”, which we’ll be looking at in January. It’s hymn 594 in Lutheran Service Book if you want to take a look.

Stanza 7

Jesus sinners doth receive;

Also I have been forgiven;

And when I this earth must leave,

I shall find an open heaven.

Dying, still to Him I cleave:

Jesus sinners doth receive.

Finally, we see that we have not only forgiveness and peace, but we also have eternal life in Christ. We cling to Him through life and death, knowing that He clings to us and carries us as His dear children. Amen.

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One thought on “I, a sinner

  1. Jesus came for the lost, not the ones who thought they were already “found”. If we think we are not sinners and therefore have no room for improvement, then Jesus is not for us, because we are living a lie, and Jesus is Truth. The Devil is the king of lies, and therefore, if we continue to try to convince ourselves that we are already “complete” then we are serving the king of lies, not the Truth. We must acknowledge our selfish nature, repent, and then live a life serving others, putting our own needs aside. this way we will then please God. Amen.

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