Luke 15 opens with the Pharisees again complaining to and about Jesus. How dare he associate himself with sinful people! He even eats with them! Something that may not be immediately evident is why the Pharisees are so upset. In Jesus’ culture having a meal with someone showed a level of acceptance. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus had so openly accepted this group of sinners. The Pharisees, unlike Jesus, wouldn’t even consider associating themselves with such ‘despicable’ people. They wouldn’t even try to teach these sinners about God, let alone sit and share a meal with them.
However, the situation I find most interesting is that these sinful people accepted and identified with Jesus. They didn’t reject Him. Relationships go both ways, they are never one-sided. By accepting Jesus into their midst, these sinners dared to believe that they were worth Jesus’ time and attention. The group of sinners didn’t reject Jesus because they weren’t good enough, or because they pitied themselves, or because they didn’t feel they deserved to be near Him. No, they accepted Jesus because they knew something that the Pharisees did not. They needed Jesus.
After the Pharisees voice their complaints to Jesus he tells them three stories to emphasize exactly why he’s associating with sinners. The three parables (Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son) all share similarities in their theme – God loves us, he will go out of his way to find us, and there is great joy when someone repents and returns to God.
As a sinner, I find the fact that God and the angels rejoice when we repent very comforting. There isn’t condemnation or anger. They are celebrating with us! And what a lesson this is for us. Too often there is criticism about someone trying to take the right steps in their life. Too often there is judgement or a lack of support. And too often do I see Christians taking great steps of faith in their life, only to downplay their step because they don’t want to be ‘boastful.’ We need to celebrate! We need to be like God and the angels here! We need to focus on the positive and not let ourselves slip into the negativity and skepticism that the world often sees. Celebrate your victories!
Moving into the final verses of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (v31-32), Jesus addresses a topic I’ve heard others talk about in church. The conversation usually goes like this, “Man, that person has such a great and powerful testimony. They overcame a terrible situation, and now they’re doing great ministry for Jesus. I don’t have anything like that. I’ve been going to church my whole life. My testimony just doesn’t have the power that theirs does.” Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Your obedience, discipline, passion, consistency, and faithfulness are your testimony! Living in relationship with Jesus is the best life. More is better.
In the Prodigal Son account, the first thing the Son does when he gets to the Father is apologize. He doesn’t make excuses for his mistakes, he doesn’t downplay the pain he caused, and he certainly doesn’t blame the Father. The Son gets straight to the point and asks for forgiveness. The Father had already forgiven his son, but the young man needed to ask for that forgiveness in order to heal his own relationship with his father.
When you apologize, don’t do it half-heartedly. Don’t blame others, the circumstances, or bad luck. Own it. If you caused some damage, take responsibility for what happened, and ask for forgiveness genuinely. Then, if you are forgiven by those you have hurt. Accept their forgiveness. Don’t allow shame and guilt to ruin the blessing. Accept the gift and move on.
*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke