Summary: This sermon is all about welcoming lost people home with joy and gladness. The trick to it is to wear an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt underneath your suit, and as you read the parable of the Lost Son, strip off articles slowly without even acknowledgin
The Older Son
Welcoming the lost as found with great joy
Chapel Service of Plainfield Christian Church
Good evening, how are all of you doing tonight? Good, good. Tonight, I have come to set right a common misconception that exists among the church at large.
We as Christians have been trained from a very young age, and rightly so to look at the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees with obvious prejudice to favoring Jesus. While I agree that Jesus is right when he argues with the Pharisees, these arguments have led us to the conclusion that all Pharisees were bad people. There is another side to the group known as the Pharisees that many don’t know about. Many of the Pharisees were good people who were doing their best to keep the law as they saw it and simply missed (as many outside of the Pharisees have) the coming of Jesus.
To begin with, let’s look at a number of individual Pharisees that we know of from scripture and from history.
Nicodemus: Nicodemus was a good man among the Pharisees that came to Jesus in the night to see about Jesus’ teachings. We see the account recorded in John 3. During that encounter, Nicodemus says: (John 3)
2this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
Later on in Jesus’ ministry, we read of this account: (John 7)
45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn’t you bring him in?"
46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
47"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. 48"Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."
50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51"Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"
52They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."
Still later we read that Nicodemus had gone to the tomb of Jesus to aid in the burial preparation (John 19). For all intents and purposes the text makes it look like Nicodemus had become one of the disciples of Jesus. He was a good man who became a disciple.
Gamaliel: Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel (who we will discuss momentarily) and was the one who instructed Paul in the ways of Judaism. He was a righteous man, and we see him acting righteously in Acts 5 after Peter and the apostles stand before the Sanhedrin for preaching in the name of Jesus:
33But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.
34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.
35And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.
36"For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.
37"After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.
38"So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown;
39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."
40They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.
Gamaliel is never known to have become a follower of Christ, but we see him in this instance trying to do the most God-honoring thing that he could do in his mind. He was a good man who sought to do good.
Hillel: Hillel was also a Pharisee who was a really good guy. In fact, one of his most notable teachings was one that is very much like the golden rule. He had come to some of the same conclusions that Jesus taught about the law a few generations before Jesus was born into this world. He said: