Jump Start # 2635
Luke 15:2 “And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
Our verse today is the core reason why Jesus told some of the most beloved and powerful parables in His ministry. Lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons were the Lord’s response and answer to these charges against Him. The prodigal son, not only showed the love and grace of our Heavenly Father, it pulled back the curtain to reveal how heartless these Pharisees were. They are the elder brother who refused to accept, forgive or participate with the celebration of the return of the prodigal.
There are a few things we ought to see here:
First, anytime we complain about God we are wrong. God is not one of us. God doesn’t answer to us. He doesn’t have to answer your prayers. He doesn’t have to do things the way you think He should. His word is written and it stands. You may not like what He says about worship, divorce, forgiveness or a host of social behaviors, but your complaints and disagreements will not change what is written. God is always right. Always.
The Pharisees in our passage didn’t see Jesus as God. They thought he was just a young rabbi who had odd teachings and beliefs about himself. They thought they could put Him in his place. But we know God. We know Jesus. Complaining because things do not turn out as you want, makes you look spoiled and selfish.
Second, we are quick to judge others. We see the mistakes of others and are nearly proud to announce to the world what those mistakes are. We turn around during worship to see who is coming in late. And with that, we roll our eyes, sigh and show our disgust. The song leader begins a song, and immediately we whisper just loud enough for others to hear, ‘We sang that one last week.’ The Pharisees in our passage were judging others and complaining about Jesus. One wonders if these folks ever smiled. Were they ever happy? Were they ever content? Did they ever feel blessed? Were they happy to be in God’s love and grace?
But, then, do folks think the same thing about us. Do our kids ever see us happy, content and feeling blessed? When someone asks how we are doing, do we drag out the medical charts and start down the lists of every ache and pain and then move on to how the kids don’t call, and then the weather has been hot, and the grocery stores are still not stocked. You do that very much, and people will stop talking to you. They will stop asking you “how you are,” because they don’t have half a day to hear your problems.
It’s a wonder that an apostle in a prison could tell folks on the outside, “rejoice always.” Sometimes those in the worst situations, remind the rest of us to stop complaining and rejoice.
Third, these Pharisees saw no value in eating with sinners. This was one of the greatest social occasions in the first century. It is amazing how many lessons and parables are drawn around eating. This was much more than just filling your belly. If that’s all we see, we miss it. You and I eat anywhere and everywhere. We eat at ballgames, on airplanes, in our cars, at the movie theatre. Eating is no big deal. I’ve seen folks driving down the road with a hamburger in one hand and a cell phone in the other, while passing me. The complaint about the Pharisees was much more than sinners receiving food. It involved accepting, associating, fellowshipping and being with them. To the Pharisees, sinners needed to be excluded. Cut them off. Have nothing to do with them. They are not like us, so we don’t want to be with them. Not Jesus. He came into the world for all people. He died for all people. Behind the Pharisees’ logic was the idea that they were better than those sinners. But they never would believe that they were in the same situation as these sinners. The Pharisees were sinners too. They needed Jesus, too. They were in the same boat as the very sinners that they complained about.
Fourth, our perspective of others and even the world is often slanted in favor of us. That was the problem of the Pharisees. And, that leads easily into a “us” verse “them” mentality. The Us, are right. The “them” are never right. But if our perspective is off, then our vision is off. This is important. If I feel cheated, ignored, or neglected, then that will shape and color my vision. Yet, if I feel blessed, loved and welcomed by God, then that will shape and color my vision. Perspective. Our times are consumed with left and right, forgetting that there is an up and a down. How we view self, others and God shapes our attitude, our out look and our motivation. “This world is not my home,” is more than a powerful hymn, it is a perspective. And, that perspective shapes how we see things. So many are allowing the news, society and culture to shape their hearts. They allow others to determine what is important for them.
The lens through which the Pharisees looked always put them in the center. The universe revolved around them. And, that same thought is found today. Selfishness shapes and defines how folks see the world. The sinners had no place in the hearts of these Pharisees and that would lead to prejudice, neglect and indifference, the three fastballs that Satan loves to throw.
Jesus was around sinners. He ate with sinners. He didn’t encourage them sins. He didn’t ignore their sins. But, even though He was much better than they were, He invited them around Him and made them feel loved and wanted.
Can we do the same?