It’s shocking to find Jesus in Luke 15 having to defend to the religious leaders of God’s people his actions of welcoming and eating with “sinners.” The contrast in attitudes between the Pharisees and teachers of the Law with that of Jesus is obvious. But understanding that contrast and the manifestations of it is paramount to Christ’s Church accomplishing its God-ordained mission.
Jesus attracted sinners while the Pharisees repelled them.
Lost sinners came to Jesus, not because he catered to them or compromised his message, but because he cared for them. He understood their needs and tried to help them, while the Pharisees criticized them and kept their distance.
Jesus’ implicit rebuke of that approach to sinners by the Pharisess is timeless. His every word and deed challenges that self-centered mindset. Jesus invested his time and energy in sinners. He associated freely with them. He ate with them. He became personally and intimately involved in their lives and in their struggles. And then in order to restore them to a right relationship with God, he died for them.
Jesus pursued sinners with such enthusiasm and commitment that the religious community questioned his character and his motives. And the parables in Luke 15 explain why that pursuit of sinners meant so much to him. He knew that rescue was possible. And love compelled him to go after them with everything he had.
If Jesus’ worldview and perspective is informed by this powerful theology of the lost, so should ours.
To hear the Luke 15 parables today is to be unavoidably challenged by them. It’s a direct challenge from our Savior to his Church as he says, “Suppose one of you…”