Summary: Jesus was often judged harshly by the religious authorities in his day. The Pharisees and the scribes believed wrongly that he was condoning the sins of people whose company he shared. Instead Christ came to make of them "new creations" (2 Cor. 5:17).
“Turning Complaints into a Celebration”
Luke 15:1-10, Proper 19-C
September 11, 2016
“Grumble”: It’s an interesting word isn’t it? And here we find it in the second verse of our Gospel lesson today. “And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2)!
Someone once pointed out that if you speak this word 6 or 7 times consecutively that it pretty well defines itself! So let’s try it: “Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble . . .”
Some synonyms for the verb to “grumble” are: “to complain,” “to protest” and “to gripe!” So here are these Pharisees and the scribes, therefore, grumbling, complaining, protesting, and griping about the fact that Jesus, in their opinion was keeping some very “shady” company!
BUT PERHAPS WE SHOULD NOT BE TOO QUICK IN OUR JUMPING UP TO PRONOUNCE A WORD OF JUDGMENT UPON THEM! Why not? Because after all, they were certainly not “bad” people as we sometimes like to identify certain groups of people as being “bad” people. Yes, they were sinners for sure, but not the kind of “sinners” they themselves usually envisioned in their own minds when they were talking about other people.
A. These Pharisees and scribes were to be commended because they were doing their best, they believed, to live in a proper fear of God and in doing their best to love their neighbors; a word which they reserved exclusively to be used only when they were speaking about their fellow Jews.
B. They believed in the LORD God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who they also always remembered as: The God of Moses – THE LAWGIVER too! They thought the best way to hasten the long-awaited advent of their Promised Savior into the world was to be fully dedicated to studying, obeying, interpreting and applying the Law of Moses to their own lives and the lives of other people all around them too!
C. They took to heart those words of that very first Psalm that serves as a powerful introduction to the whole Psalter of those 150 found in the Old Testament. You know the words: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Yet, in their minds, this is the very thing that they saw Jesus doing! They failed to see that true righteousness is not simply a matter of one’s own external behavior, but a matter of the heart and of the mind as well. This is something that Jesus explained when he said, “You have heard that it was said of old: “You shall not murder; and whoever murders his brother will be liable to judgment!” But I say to you that everyone who hates his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22)!
Therefore, when they saw Jesus hanging around with people whom they considered to be deplorable people at best: Agents of the IRS and mid-eastern call girls, they were outraged. “The Pharisees and the scribes grumbled saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2)!
Secondly, we should note—that Jesus does not speak a harsh word of judgment upon them either.
What Jesus does is to view this whole situation as an opportunity to turn all these people’s complaints into a time of celebration! So first Jesus tells them the little parable about the man who had 100 sheep and one of them went astray! What does this man do? Does he simply shrug his shoulders and say to himself: “Oh well, what difference does the loss of just one sheep make? I still have 99 sheep!” No, he doesn’t say this at all—not if he is a good shepherd. He loves those sheep. He has named those sheep. He doesn’t want to see that runway sheep meet up with its own demise! So he goes out and searches, not “haphazardly” but very “diligently” Jesus tells us…until he finds it and when he finds it he brings it home, upon his shoulders rejoicing. Then he throws a party inviting all of his friends to share with him his good news!
You know we might have a hard time relating to a story about shepherds and sheep because they aren’t really part of our lives for most of us here in the USA, at least not in the southeastern United States. But we can all relate can’t we to that dear woman and her lost coin. We all know the panic of losing something very valuable like that! It’s the way a man feels when he reaches for his wallet in his back right pocket and it just isn’t there. Or her emotional state of mind might have been like yours, ladies, when you reach down to pick up your handbag and it’s not there!