Summary: I imagine that, given the types of persons that huddled around Jesus, there would have, at the very least, been a fair bit of flirting going on at those gatherings.
We’re in Luke chapter 15, and Jesus appears to be partying again!
Jesus was fond of saying that the Kingdom of God is like a party, and he seemed keen to illustrate that with his lifestyle, wherein he was a frequent guest at dinner parties and a not too infrequent host of spontaneous soirees.
And I don’t think that Jesus’ religious peers would have been too concerned about all that, austere though they may have been, had it not been for the type of persons He regularly invited to join Him at these parties."This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!" (read ’parties’ with them)
I remember well, back at my home church in Surry Hills, we decided one Easter to put on a party for the homeless in our area. I used to run a youth group back there in the early 80’s - at the Chinese Presbyterian Church of Surry Hills, and we decided to invite all the homeless persons from the local shelters to dinner at the church.
We already had a long-term working relationship with the local Sydney City Mission homes and other detox centres in the area. The only problem was that most of us were too young to drive, and a lot of the homeless persons were not very mobile, but the local Missionbeat drivers helped out by bussing everybody who couldn’t walk up to the church hall, and since half the kids in the youth group had parents who owned Chinese restaurants, we were able to put on a tremendous smorgasbord, followed by a movie (’Chariots of Fire’, I think it was).
That night was probably the best memory I have of my many years in the Chinese Presbyterian Church. The only problem was that, after it was all over, the elders of the church forbade us from ever repeating the performance, the explicit reason given was that one of the girls had been propositioned by one of the old men!
At the time I thought, ’what a bunch of wankers!’ But now I too am a parent, and I can better understand why a parent might not be overjoyed at the thought of his daughter’s youth group being overtaken by ageing alcoholic men.
I wonder if we would send our kids along to a youth group that Jesus was running?
Of course we might assume that the no-hopers who hung around Jesus, once they were in His company, all behaved like respectable middle-class citizens. Frankly, I doubt it.
I imagine that, given the types of persons that huddled around Jesus, there would have, at the very least, been a fair bit of flirting going on at those gatherings. Maybe the occasional fight would break out? Certainly there would have been some pretty colourful language flying around at those parties, as you get the impression that the grog flowed pretty freely!
Don’t forget that, unlike most of us clerical types who try to represent Jesus to the world, Jesus Himself had a reputation for being glutton and a drunkard! I imagine that He got that reputation from the company He kept. And so the upright grumble, saying, "This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!"
And Jesus hears them grumbling, and He tells them a story - three stories in fact - about three parties, and each one is framed as a question.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, what do you do?"
Jesus clearly intends this to be a rhetorical question, as He answers it for us - "You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it."
"When you find it", He continues, "you are so happy that you put it on your shoulders and carry it back home. Then you call your friends and neighbours together and say to them, ’I am so happy I found my lost sheep. Let us celebrate!’"
And so you kill the fatted calf (or the fatted sheep perhaps in this case) and have a party, which would sort of destroy the point of finding it, but it’s a pretty bizarre story to being with!
What sort of shepherd loses one sheep out of a hundred and then responds by leaving the ninety-nine to fend for themselves while he goes off and pours all his time and energy into looking for the one that was lost? What type of shepherd does that? A rather eccentric shepherd, to say the least!
Now I don’t pretend to know a lot about shepherding. Indeed, I’m not far ahead of Pink when it comes to understanding the wool trade. Even so, I think I do know something about running a business and I know that if you have a hundred assets of any kind and lose one, you don’t sacrifice the ninety-nine in order to get the one back! That’s just common sense - something the shepherd in this story doesn’t seem to have a lot of!