Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them he addressed this parable….
This weeks readings are all about repentance and forgiveness of sins. At the scene of the golden calf Moses pleads on behalf of the people and in Jesus parables he describes G-d’s love of those lost and the extent of G-d forgiveness. Sin, repentance and forgiveness are themes that run throughout the bible in both the old and new testaments. G-d is merciful. The parables are easy to interpret even though many conclusions and lessons can be drawn from them. The lost coin, the lost sheep, the prodigal son all have the common thread of the joy in discovering the lost and in returning them back to the fold.
What is interesting though is why Jesus is relaying the parables and who he is addressing them to. Jesus address these stories to the Pharisees and the scribes in defense of his dining and associating with sinners. Jesus in his mission saw purpose in going after those lost and bringing those ‘sinners’ back into the kingdom. The Pharisees on the other hand avoided these sinners at all cost for fear that their sins might deprive them entry into the kingdom. To the Pharisees the kingdom was intended only for a select few. To Jesus the kingdom was open to all who sought it. To the Pharisees sinners could not gain entry, while Jesus argued repentance and forgiveness granted them that possibility. To further complicate things to those Pharisees a cripple would be a sinner even though their malady might be through no action of their own. To them crippling was punishment for that cripples transgressions. Entry to the kingdom was for a small select few indeed.
As a Christian I understand at some level Jesus preaching on repentance and forgiveness even though I still have much to learn. Jesus message makes sense. The interesting part of the story though is that this conflict between the select few seemingly flawless individuals and the wounded masses is still so prevalent today. This time though it is not a theological argument between Christ and the Pharisees. Today many times it is Christians versus Christians. How many still cross the road to avoid those so called sinners who the righteous still se as having little hope of entering the kingdom? It might not be the crippled, unless of course they are crippled through drug or alcohol addiction. It might not be those lost in life, unless of course they took a wrong turn somewhere and can not get back on track. It might not be the mentally handicapped, unless of course they are just plain stupid uneducated fools. It might not be the poor, unless of course if they are in our back yard. When Jesus describes G-od’s love for mankind and the extent that G-d will go through to bring those sinners back it is easy to understand. It is not so easy to practice. How many ways are there to reach out, and how many way are there to drive away?