Joy shall be in heaven, over the sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Luke xv. 7
It is this that recommends, as well as distinguishes, the religion of our Lord; which had been no gospel, to the lost and to the fallen, but for the unmingled freeness, or absolute gratuitousness, with which all blessings are bestowed. As Dr. Arrowsmith somewhere remarks, the mediatorial riches of Christ would have been so many dead commodities, “if it were not for needy, undone sinners, who take them off his hands.”
I remember a just observation of good Mr. Hervey’s: that, in the days of our Saviour’s residence on earth, “the levee of that prince of peace consisted almost entirely of the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” Hence it was asked, by his enemies, with an air of insult and contempt, have any of the rulers, or of the pharisees, believed on him? But this people [this mob, this riff-raff, who follow him and] who know not the law, are accursed.
.. No consideration can be more mortifying to human pride, than this infallibly certain truth; that harlots, and publicans, and sinners, i. e. many of those who were the meanest rank, and whose antecedent lives had been of the most profligate stamp, were the very people who thirsted for his redemption, and composed his visible retinue. These were made partakers of his great salvation : and not one that trusted in his name, though vile as vileness itself, was ever sent empty away. So true is his own gracious declaration : All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me ; and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise, nor on any account cast out.
Augustus Toplady, “SERMON VIII, Joy in Heaven Over One Repentant Sinner,”
The works of Augustus M. Toplady, volume III
Augustus Toplady was an 18th century Anglican cleric who wrote several hymns.
We keep searching the database of sermons for social justice words, and keep finding wonderful declarations of the gospel. We keep reading explanations of the gospel, and keep finding an analysis that flips the values of the social order on its head.
The retinue of our Lord consisted of those with very glaring physical flaws: the halt (or lame), the blind, and the poor. Hardly a way to run an empire or gain a following of important people. I truly believe there was a metaphorical intent here, that attracting so many physically ailing people was one way that Christ demonstrates to us that He is a saviour and a balm to all of us with our spiritual ailments. I also believe it’s natural fruit of having your love for your fellow human, that you attract those who need love. These crowds weren’t a burden or a distraction from Jesus’ ultimate mission, they were proof of the success of it. Do we run our churches and parachurch organizations this way, where masses of infirm people know they are welcome and will receive some love? Who knows, even be fed? Jesus’ outreach went so far as to appeal to the spiritually outcast, prostitutes and publicans, the meanest and most profligate sinners. Is this some kind of metaphor, too?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, let our churches and ministry organizations look like this. Let us acquire the contempt of the world for being too attractive to the lame and the poor, for offering a gospel with “unmingled freeness” to vilest of sinners. Amen.