September 11, 2016
Introduction: The Gospel today brings to mind the old saying “one man’s garbage is another’s treasure.” Perhaps this could be applied to God; our view of those in the world and God’s are so different that when we see those whom we think little of; it might do us well to re-read this passage and think of how different Jesus’ view was that of the prevailing understanding of the society he lived in. When you think of the differing layers of society whom do you see at the top and who do you believe to be near the bottom? How does that mesh with how others may view the different strata of society? One of the ways we are controlled is to view others as beneath us so that no matter how badly we may be off economically at least we are not a member of that ethnic or racial group.
I) Today Jesus is condemned because of the company he is keeping. He eats and socializes with tax collectors and sinners! We should remember that tax collectors were the ultimate sinners, they not only by definition cheated those out of their hard earned money by charging them too much, thus getting the tax owed to Rome; their fair share; and then over charging them in order to get enough to support their own family. But they were also seen as collaborators with the hated Romans! What human could be more evil, and so the Pharisees and Sadducees condemned Jesus for on the one hand stating he was a prophet from God and on the other defiling himself by being with all these reprobates.
II) By being with these degenerates he was defiling himself and thus by definition being no longer holy. Instead by being so closely associated with these sinners he himself was now being seen as one who is sinful because he has now been too willing to be and advocate for their being included in Israel’s inner society and not as outcasts.
III) Jesus invites the people to enter the mind of God. How does God view the sinner? How does God view those who seemingly are not in need of His mercy? We are given two parables in order to gain insight into how God views the world. The first is a shepherd who has a sheep stray from the flock and the second is a woman who loses a silver coin; one of ten she has and this coin is simply not worth much. In both cases the one who has lost the sheep or the coin goes to extraordinary lengths to get them back. One leaves the 99 sheep to find the one and the other lights a lantern and sweeps the entire house in order to find the coin perhaps expending more money in the lost oil searching for the coin than what the coin was worth in the first place. Jesus says that is how God values us even to the extent that by the standard of someone who is standing back looking on might even question how it is that the effort is worthy of the result!