“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” vss. 1-2
Even though Luke was writing many years after Jesus’ ministry he clearly understood the reasons for the tension that had arisen between Jesus and the religious leaders. By welcoming sinners and eating with them Jesus was undermining centuries of religious tradition and practice. He identified with sinners to show them that they were included in God’s reconciling forgiveness and grace. The Pharisees and scribes presumably knew that God loved them–they just couldn’t believe that God also loved the outcasts and misfits. That’s still a hard ask for people who walk the straight and narrow and who are proud of their righteous living. Our dualistic minds can’t grasp the notion of inclusive love–universal reconciliation doesn’t make sense for us. Surely there has to be special merit piling up for our good works and careful obedience. So when Jesus showed up with wide open arms and a hug for all, for some it was like a slap in the face of goodness. What’s the point of being good if there’s a party for prodigals down the road? When the Pharisees grumbled, he smiled and told them a story, “Once a man had two sons…” and by the time he had finished talking he hoped they’d paid attention. They do seem to have gotten the point, but it didn’t make them love him any more!
Thought for the Day: Why is it fun to eat with sinners?