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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 43 - Luke 15:2 - Jesus Watching for Sinners Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




Jesus Watching For Sinners.


"This man receiveth sinners."-Luke 15:2.



     Such was the conclusion of the Pharisees respecting Jesus, from what they saw of his daily life. Between Him and them there was mutual repulsion, as if not suited for each other; between Him and the publicans there was mutual attraction, as if exactly suited for each other. It is sinners that this man receiveth. He does not care for the righteous. He passes them by.

     Were these Pharisees right or wrong in their conclusion? They were right; and the parables which follow are meant as both an admission and a vindication of our Lord's proceedings. He accepts their interpretation of his life, as the true one, the only true one; and He proceeds to furnish the key, the divine key to what appeared to so many unaccountable. He gives the solution to the difficulty raised by the Pharisees in his days, and continually resuscitated and re-stated in other ages by the descendants of those Pharisees, self-righteous men.

     Thus those men, who hated Christ, preached his gospel. We must call this "the gospel according to the Pharisees." They meant it not; yet they spoke the true gospel when they said, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

     The word "receiveth" is in the original singularly expressive. It means waiteth, watcheth, looks out for, lies in wait. It occurs fourteen times in the New Testament; and in all other places it is translated in some such way: as Mark 15:43, "who waited far the kingdom of God"; Luke 2:25, "waiting for the consolation of Israel"; 2:38, "looked for redemption in Jerusalem"; 12:36, "men that wait for their Lord," Acts 23:21, 24:15, Titus 2:13, Jude 21. Jesus is looking out for sinners! Paul waited to receive all who came to him (Acts 28) ; but Jesus goes out in search for them. He lies in wait for sinners; for Mary's, and Matthews, and Zaccheuses. Let us see (1) what this lying in wait implies; (2) how He lies in wait. 

     I. What it implies. Many things; all of them favorable to the sinners, for He does not lie in wait as the lion for his prey, but as the Shepherd for his stray sheep. It implies then-

     (1.) Love. Indeed otherwise it has no meaning. The three parables which follow indicate this. It is love, tender, compassionate, forgiving love, that is the mainspring of this waiting for sinners.

     (2.) Patience. As the huntsman or the fisher waits patiently hour after hour to seize his object, so does this waiting, watching Saviour. Unwearied patience with the ungodly, the wandering, the hard-hearted, the profligate, marked his life on earth; and He is still the same patient one in heaven. "He bath long patience."

     (3.) Earnestness. He is intent on his object; thoroughly in earnest. His patience is not indifference; his love is not mere good-natured benevolence. It is all earnestness with Him. It was so on earth; it is so in heaven.

     (4.) Desire to bless. His direct and honest object is blessing. He longs to bless. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He longs for their life. "Oh that thou," are still his words to the sinner. "How often would I have gathered you," He says with profound sincerity to every lost one.

     II. How He does it. His life on earth is a specimen of how He does it. His days and nights were spent in seeking the lost. By the sea of Galilee, in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, on the highways of Judea, in the synagogue, in the temple, in the village, in the city, by Jacob's well, He was seeking the lost. How does He do this now? How or where is He lying in wait for sinners?

     (1.) In the word. Of that word He is "the spirit," the Alpha and Omega, and out of that word He speaks to us. From Genesis to Revelation we hear his voice. It is the voice of love. "Come unto me" is the burden of the Old Testament as well as of the New. It is not merely that each chapter speaks of Jesus; but in each chapter Jesus speaks to us. In each verse He is lying in wait for us.

     (2.) In sermons. For sermons are not disquisitions, nor declamations, nor orations, but messages from Christ. In them we hear God and Christ beseeching men to be reconciled; ministers, in speaking Christ's gospel, "pray men in Christ's stead." Thus each Sabbath He is looking out for sinners; stretching out his hands from the pulpit to them.

     (3.) In providences. What a meaning there is in that word providence when used not a substitute for God, but as a word to denote his doings! In each providence, great or small, private or public, personal, or family, or social, or national, or universal; in mercies or in judgments; in wars, famines, pestilences, shipwrecks, railway disasters; in the seasons, in the sunshine, in the storm; in all, Christ is lying in wait for sinners; out of them comes his loving voice.

     Thus Christ lies in wait for sinners: not merely waits in his house to receive them, but watches for them, looks out for them, goes out in quest of them. The expression is beautifully applicable to the three cases in the parables which follow. The Shepherd is looking out and going out for his sheep; the woman with her lighted candle is going through every room, turning over all the lumber, and looking into every nook, for her piece of silver; and the father is watching at the door for his wandering son. Ah, "this man lieth in wait for sinners."

     Yes; in his work of saving, Christ is aggressive and compulsory. He goes out in order to find them. He is ever on the outlook. He does not merely sit above on his throne, willing to receive the applications of those who come. He comes down amongst us. He goes to and fro in the earth; He walks up and down in it. His daily, hourly work is going in quest of sinners.

     His doings on earth imply this; his words as well. It is the same in heaven. His doings from Pentecost onwards to this hour imply this. Every soul saved shews this. His words spoken after He left earth intimate this. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," implies this.

     Thus we are compassed about with love. For the lost, there is the compassionate love; for the saved, there is the complacent love. We cannot escape from it whatever we be. It follows us, pursues us, cries after us, surrounds us! Why the love of an almighty heart should ever be ineffectual is a mystery beyond our power to solve, But for all this the love is the same; sincere and true.