Luke 15

Read Luke 15.

Jesus had a way of attracting the very people other religious leaders wanted to keep at a distance, to the point that the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about his hospitality toward “sinners.” This is not a dynamic contained in the first century. You’ve probably known people who used labels like “sinner” to exclude people. Maybe you’re even honest enough to admit that you’ve been that grumbling person who protested at the welcome of certain people at the Lord’s table. It is to that part of each of us that Jesus tells these three parables in Luke 15.

When a sheep is lost and found, there is not only rejoicing but an invitation for others to join the celebration. The same is true when a coin is lost and then found. That joy, Jesus says, does not measure up to the joy in heaven when a sinner repents. Jesus makes it clear that joyful celebration is the right response when someone who was lost is found, but the parable of the prodigal son breaks from the pattern of the first two. Jesus is making the point that when it is another person who is found, our reaction should be the same but often is not, at least not immediately. The father rejoiced and celebrated at the return of his son, but when the story ends, the older son is still standing outside the celebration. Did he eventually decide to go inside? Jesus doesn’t answer that question because, I believe, that part of the story will be told in our lives. Will we grumble when others are welcomed into the family of God, pointing out how much more deserving we are? Or will we rejoice that the lost is found? Will we keep our distance from those we deem unworthy or embrace everyone who comes to Jesus with open arms? I pray we choose the way of joy.

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