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When you think of the Gospels, what do you think of? What first comes to mind. Many people think of the good news of Jesus, the message of the kingdom or parables like the good Samaritan or the prodigal son. Some remember miracles like turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the five thousand. Most of us tune in to the feel good parts of the Gospels. Our first thought is not usually sin. Maybe that is a mistake.

I have been delving into the Gospel of Luke lately, and I can’t help but notice that “sin”, at least in the first five chapters, keeps popping up its ugly head. Quite a few times it seems to me:

“And you, my child (John), will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…” (1:76-77)

John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (3:3)

When Simon Peter saw this (great catch of fish), he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (5:8)

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (5:20)

“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (5:23-24)

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (5:30-32)

I think what Luke and Jesus are trying to get across is that sin is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with in a serious way. John the Baptist was all about preaching that people needed to repent from their sins. They needed to drastically change the way they thought about sin so that their behavior would be altered. John told the crowd to be generous, not selfish. He told tax collectors not to collect more than required of them. He told soldiers to not extort money.

And then Jesus comes along, and his message and miracles showed Peter what a sinful man he was. But Jesus does not reject the sinners, he welcomes them and forgives them and invites them to follow him into a better, happier, more fulfilling life.

The paralyzed man that was let down through the roof thought his biggest problem was that he couldn’t walk. Jesus lets him know that his real problem in life was his sins, and Jesus readily forgives him, along with healing him, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders.

These same religious leaders looked down their noses at Jesus because he was partying with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus gave them, and us, his reason for being in the world with his response, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

We can all rejoice that Jesus was not a Pharisee, but the Son of Man who does not reject sinners, but has compassion on them and seeks to move them to a place of realization about how destructive sin is, to be forgiven of their sin and live a joyous, productive, fulfilling life glorifying God and enjoying him forever. Now that is Good News!

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