Sermon Illustrations

The apostles were a great example of the difficulties of loving one another, and Jesus knew it.

There’s a scene in the epic Franco Zefferelli movie, Jesus of Nazareth, in which Jesus arrives at the house of Matthew, the tax collector, for dinner as he told Matthew he would. Peter and the other disciples were trying to convince Jesus not to go, bringing up the arguments of that it wouldn’t look right for a rabbi to be in a sinner’s house, especially eating — sharing a meal.

Eating together was a very spiritual act; it went well beyond the notion of just nourishment. Think about our Eucharist — it is a remembrance of a meal of love offered by Jesus himself among his closest friends. Meals had deep emotional and spiritual connections among the participants.

So the other disciples did not want Jesus to mingle with the likes of Matthew, a tax collector who was banished from the temple and synagogues by the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders.

But Jesus didn’t care about appearances and besides, he came to save sinners, not the righteous.

So Peter decides not to go. He’s laying in the dark in his fishing boat by himself, feeling smug and proper for having not gone with Jesus to Matthew’s house. Then he gets the urge to follow after Jesus, and stands in the courtyard, his distaste for the celebration at Matthew’s house is clearly visible in the expression on his face.

There’s a huge party going on, and Jesus is sitting in the middle of the room. Someone calls out, “Teacher, tell us a story.”

So Jesus looks over at Matthew, his newest disciple, and over to Peter, who is now standing outside the doorway looking in. And Jesus starts telling the story of the Prodigal Son.

It the story of a young man who asks for his share of his father’s inheritance early, and go away and splurges all his money on debauchery. When he comes to his senses and returns home to his father, he is welcomed with open arms by the father, but his brother is offended by his father having anything to do with this son, much less throwing him such a lavish party.

But the father tells the complaining son that they had to celebrate, because his brother was lost but is now found, was dead but now lives.

As Jesus says those words, he’s staring directly at Peter. Tears fill Peter’s eyes and he comes into Matthew’s house to join the party.