This Man Welcomes Sinners and Eats With Them

In Luke 15, Jesus finds himself once again in a moment of confrontation with the religious leaders of his day. Jesus has gotten himself in the habit of pursuing and welcoming sinners and having meals with them.

Now meals in Jesus’ day meant everything. Who you ate with signified acceptance, friendship, and relationship. When Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, prophet and God incarnate comes to eat with lost, hurting, broken sinners, the Pharisees notice - and they aren’t happy. They mutter and complain in the opening lines of Luke 15 “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

This man

This man

This man

Hear the disgust and annoyance in their voices.

This man is accepting and eating and building relationships with the unclean, dirty and sinful.

But Jesus understands something about the human condition that we often forget.

We are ALL broken, unclean and sinful.

Yet Jesus’ love is constantly pursuing us no matter the cost. Jesus’ response to the “this man” of the Pharisees, is a parable. Specifically, “this parable.”

"This man" is the accusation.

"This parable" is the response.

What’s the parable? Well, it’s actually three stories, but in Jesus’ mind, they are all one parable. The stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons.

In each of the stories, one main theme is consistent - pursuing and costly love.

As you read the stories, pay attention to how Jesus tells each of the stories. With the lost sheep, the shepherd travels a great distance to bring back the one sheep. In the story of the lost coin, the women will tear apart her house to find that one coin. The father in the final story bears the shame and embarrassment the younger son caused him and provided an extravagant dinner party when the younger son returns. On top of that, the father pursues and invites the hard-hearted older brother to the party, even after the older brother publically shames his father. Just like the sheep which was lost and far away yet is pursued and loved, so is the younger brother. Just like the coin was lost right inside the home, near and close, yet is pursued and loved, so is the older brother.

No matter where you find yourself today, Jesus is pursuing. He is for you. At the same time, his costly and pursuing love requires a response. Jesus parable in Luke 15 doesn’t have a definite ending. What happens to the older son? Does he go into the party? Jesus doesn’t tell us and I think that’s intentional. Will his love evoke grateful acceptance and a turning toward Jesus with your entire life? Or like the hard-hearted religious leaders, will you grow more callous and infuriated with the liberality of Jesus’ love?