THE FOLLOWING IS A SERMON THAT I DID AT NORTHMINSTER CHURCH ON JANUARY 14, 2018. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE FULL SERMON HERE. I am indebted to Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, and Kenneth Bailey for helping me rethink this parable every time I study it and preach it again.
To understand this parable, you have to understand two things
The first is- Who is hearing the parable? The beginning of Luke 15 tells us: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Tax Collectors and Sinners were a group of people. Tax collector not a cheat trying to get rich. Not like a bad used car salesman. They were sell outs who made money by supporting the occupying armies. They were traitors. They were hated by the community. Sinners are a class of people who, because of illness or livelihood, could never enter the Temple. This included deformities and diseases such as the blind, lame, bleeding, or lepers, and jobs such as prostitution, working as a mercenary for the Romans, and the tax collectors.
These people are drawing near to hear him. They were taught that they were outcast and cursed by God. They can never be made right with God. But they are attracted to the teachings of Jesus, and welcomed by him.
The Scribes and Pharisees are the other side of spectrum. They are super religious and upright. They believe they have gained favor with God and have a special relationship with God. And they are questioning why Jesus would associate with these Tax Collectors and Scribes.
Jesus gives this parable to these two specific groups, and you can’t understand the parable if you don’t understand those groups. Continue reading