Read Matthew 1:18-25
But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20-21
Many years ago a young adult, newly-confirmed in the Christian faith visited her friend’s Mormon ward Sunday morning service. When the time for the Sacrament she quite properly, and without making a scene, simply passed the bread and water to the person next to her. She did not partake; she realized that they were observing something quite different from what she was taught and believed. She believed that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of Jesus, under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and drink, instituted by Christ, for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Luther’s Small Catechism).
A remarkable, sad, hurtful, and telling thing happened. As she passed the bread and water to the person next to her, someone behind her spoke in a stage whisper, “Sinner!” I can’t imagine what that might have done to a 14 year old young woman, but I suspect it was a hurtful moment. Maybe not scarring, but certainly harmful.
The person who spoke those words was at the same time, both 100% correct and 100% wrong. She was correct in her assessment of this 14 year old young woman. That would actually be true of anyone and everyone – including the woman who whispered it aloud. She was, however, 100% wrong in how she came to that conclusion. She was intimating that you are a sinner if you don’t take Holy Communion. Communion, however, is for sinners, not the righteous.
Jesus, the Savior, was born for sinners. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. That is a remarkable statement! Too often we want to nudge our husband, telling him that he needs to listen to the message. Too easily we think of all those people out there need saving: drug dealers, human traffickers, embezzlers, con artists, cheaters, drunk drivers.
Scripture is quite clear: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Bible teaches us that “there is none righteous, no not one” (Psalm 53:1-3). We ought really to plaster a big sign on our back as we head to the communion rail. It should have the word “Sinner” on it. It might have a modifier or two: “Repentant” comes to mind. So does, “Forgiven.” But Sinner is there. We might add, “And Saint”, for that is also what a believer in Christ truly is (2 Corinthians 5:17). But he is also yet a sinner. Jesus even goes as far as saying we are evil (cf. Matthew 7:11)!
But we are not just sinners, nor even repentant or forgiven sinners. We are not just sinner and saint: Those who believe in him are saved sinners. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We line up at the foot of the cross with Paul, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Walter A. Meyer, and all true heroes of the faith. The ground is level there. No one needs to call us out as sinners. We know this and acknowledge it, confess it, and repent of it. But we also know that we have been saved from our sins.
Thanks be to God, we are not just sinners; we are saved sinners. For Jesus has come and saved his people from their sins. Are you one of his people? I am, and I am deeply thankful to be counted as one.