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​To Forgive or To Condemn: That Was the Question (Luke 15:1-10)

I appreciate Willie’s message Sunday about Luke 15:1-10 and “The Power of One” where Jesus compares the joy a man who found one lost sheep, and the joy of a woman who found one lost coin, to God’s joy over one sinner who is found. When a sinner is found there is forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and purpose. No wonder then that the opening line reads: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him(Luke 15:1). People wanted to hear the gospel (literally “good news”) about how they could be found and forgiven. But not everyone was excited to see and hear Rabbi Jesus. The second verse sets up a contrast: “But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

What’s to complain about? They were complaining about Jesus’ association with sinners, and their resulting loss of power and control over the people that were “drawing near” to hear Jesus. When the Pharisees complained “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” they were likely referencing Matthew, who by this time had already drafted onto Jesus starting team (back in Luke 5). That a Rabbi would even associate with a tax-gatherer, let alone accept one as his disciple, was scandalous!

So, the people “were all drawing near to hear him” and the Pharisees “were complaining.”

Why the difference in response?

Hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people were healed and forgiven as a result of the ministry of Jesus. That’s why Jesus didn’t need to print off hundreds of pamphlets and take out a local ad about his meetings and ministry. People heard him, saw him, and spread the word and others eagerly sought him out.

But nobody ever eagerly sought out the Pharisees. The Pharisees controlled most aspects of social behavior. They were known for condemnation, power, and control of all who fell short of their high bar. They condemned, commanded separation (the meaning of “Pharisee” is “separated one”) and intimidated others to conform to their standards or face ridicule and rejection. I guess they never read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Jesus (Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation”) was known for forgiveness, love, graciousness, compassion and healing, and salvation. He welcomed the outsider, the sinner (like Matthew), and the sick (which according to the Pharisees, was a sign of sin).

The Pharisees had a message of condemnation and social separation and Jesus offered a message of forgiveness and social inclusion.

Here’s an easy question for you: Between Jesus’ message of forgiveness and the Pharisees message of condemnation, which would you eagerly seek out?

Here’s a harder question: What message are you known for? Is it a message of forgiveness, life, hope and value? Or one of condemnation, power, manipulation, separation, and control? Are people drawn to you and your life message? Don’t confuse this with general popularity, but the message of grace and forgiveness is a sweet message that others, once they understand it, will be drawn to.

Pray that your life, and the life of Jesus in you, would be a magnet for those that are hurt and outcast, and that like Matthew, you’ll have the strength and wisdom to step away from the legalistic background and enjoy a life of grace. You won’t need to print off any pamphlets, because people will draw near to you to hear about the forgiveness you’ve found in Jesus.


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