Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eating with the Sinners

Last Sunday, I had the honor of speaking to the Jr High and High School group at the Bridge. I spoke on Luke 15 and the triple-parable that Jesus busts out in response to the Pharisees' grumbling. There were two big things that stood out to me as I was writing the talk.


“But the climax of the parable is reached in the joy over the finding of the lost. How natural and self-evident that would be! Jesus places this joy ‘in the heaven’ and ‘before the angels of God’ over against the murmuring of the Pharisees and the scribes. They look sour; in heaven the very angels sing with delight! In so masterly a way is this done that the very parable becomes a seeking and reaching out by the Shepherd Jesus after these Pharisaic lost sheep so that their joy at being found may produce still more joy in heaven among the angles. Thus through the entire parable there run in duplicate: 1) being lost, 2) the great search, 3) the happy finding, 4) the abounding joy.”

Lenski is awesome. No surprise there. Jesus gets around the hardened sourness of the Pharisees with an object lesson referencing the normal, human reaction to a normal, every-day event: And at the end, he demonstrates just how crappy their attitude really is, by contrasting their sourness with the joy in heaven. And the whole thing is wrapped up neatly, Inception style: In telling the parable, Jesus is doing what the parable represents.

Second: The Pharisees are totally the older brother guys!!!!

Yeah. OBVIOUSLY. Right? But it never really clicked until I was writing the sermon. This section begins with the Pharisees grumbling about Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors: "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

And it ends with prodigal son drawing near his father, and the older brother grumbling about how the father received the son and ate with him.

Last thing that occurred to me on my way home from church:

Luke is freaking FULL of Jesus eating with people. I mean, Jesus is eating ALL THE TIME. He eats with tax collectors in Luke 5 and 19. He eats with the pharisees in Luke 7, and again in Luke 11, and again in Luke 14. He eats with his disciples and friends in Luke 10, 22, and 24. "The Son of Man came eating and drinking," indeed! He's like Robert Downey Jr!

But that's not the point. Here's the point: When Jesus eats with the tax collectors, the Pharisees absolutely lose it. They see it as not only a waste of time, but actually dangerous: There is the sense that Jesus is tainting himself by interacting with them. But when he eats with the Pharisees themselves, they take it pretty well in stride. Jesus being a prominent rabbi, the Pharisees ask him over for a meal, so that they may sit and talk over food. I'd imagine that from their perspective, it's a chance for Jesus to finally relax, to get away from the rabble, to get away from the greedy tax collectors and common sinners...a chance for Jesus to be with other righteous people like themselves.

When the truth, of course, is that there was no such distinction...or if there is, it's the other way around. Whether Jesus was eating with the self-proclaimed "righteous" or with those who recognized themselves as sinners, the meal served one over-arching purpose: To seek and save the lost. The only difference was that sometimes, he ate with people who actually knew they were lost, and desired to be found. And I'd imagine those were the meals where he actually could relax a little...at least, more so then eating with a brood of vipers!

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