March 4, 2022
“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and Scribes were complaining...’”
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“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and Scribes were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!’” Luke 15:1-2
The idea that sinners can be restored to the Lord as if their sin had never happened is not an entirely New Testament concept. In 1178, a rabbi named Maimonides published a compilation of Judaism’s ancient requirements. He wrote:
“Let not the Jew who repents and returns to Judaism suppose that because of the iniquities and sins he has committed, he is kept at a distance from the level attained by righteous men. It isn’t so. He is loved as tenderly by the Creator as if he never sinned.”
To clarify: I am NOT suggesting that people can be saved by returning to rabbinic Judaism and following its requirements. The Bible is clear that we are saved by God’s grace when we repent from our sin and place our faith in Messiah, Jesus, alone. Ephesians 2: 8-9. I am merely saying that in the days of Jesus, the Jewish understanding of the “concept” of God’s great love towards repentant sinners was consistent with Jesus’ message.
The rabbis’ rejection of Jesus’ approach to the “lost sheep of Israel” proved they were not practicing what they were preaching. Jesus’ response to their criticism was to tell three parables. The symbols He uses become more valuable with each consecutive parable. One parable concerned a sheep, and the other dealt with a lost coin.
Finally, Jesus describes a father with two sons. One brother left home and squandered his inheritance, while the other stayed. But the greater lesson for the Pharisees did not concern the prodigal. It involved the response of the brother who stayed at home. Filled with self-righteousness, he refused to rejoice over his brother’s return.
Levites were the tribe of priests whose inheritance/birthright was not in possession of land. Their inheritance was to serve the Lord and minister to Him on behalf of others. When your inheritance is “The Lord” (and you choose to receive it), nobody’s actions or any circumstance can diminish the value of your inheritance. Yet, these Pharisees & Scribes (in Jesus’ day) were working so hard for God’s approval that they became envious of anyone who might receive God’s love by His grace. They looked down upon others who “squandered” their lives…even when they turned back to the Lord! For these Pharisees, the title of “prodigal” would never be removed and replaced with “son” or “daughter” or just plain “justified.”
Jesus has called us ALL to a holy priesthood. So let’s put all envy and strife aside and rejoice with one another when our lost “prodigal” brothers & sisters come home…just as the angels in Heaven rejoiced when we came home!
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special passion, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:8-10