Gospel Reading: Luke 14-18Devotional Emphasis: Luke 15:32 “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is now found.”
For the third time now in the gospel of Luke Jesus is invited to eat with the Pharisees. Just like the previous two times, Jesus does not make for a great dinner guest. As soon as he sees the dinner guests securing seats of honor, he tells them that they should wait and be invited to the seats of honor. Luke seems to play off this theme quite a bit by reinforcing Jesus’ theme of “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Over and over in these chapters we see traditional roles being reverses in Jesus’ teachings. The rich have a difficult time following, the tax collector’s prayer is heard over the Pharisee, the servant is honored over the master, and the children are the ones welcomed.
Perhaps the most famous of these passages take place in Luke 15 where Jesus’ is being questioned for taking dinning with sinners. He begins his explanation by sharing two parables about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep and finding the one that is lost or the woman who turns over everything in search for the missing coin. In the same way, God rejoices when he finds the one who is lost. Then Jesus tells a third parable, which begins somewhat like the first two. The son takes his share of the inheritance and leaves his father’s house. He blows his wealth and ends up having to work with unclean pigs and he feeds off the same pods he gives them to eat. Finally he comes to himself and returns home. His father is overjoyed and welcomes the lost son home, much the way the shepherd rejoices when the lost sheep is found and lady rejoices in finding the coin. Jesus adds a twist at the end however, the older brother is not happy about the celebration being given for his brother. He feels like he has been faithful and yet not rewarded. Jesus’ twist is that the older brother is the Pharisees and religious leaders. The invitation is left open for the older brother to join the party just as the invitation is open for the Pharisees and religious leaders to join in the celebration for those who have been lost and are now found.
In a book I have been reading by A.J Jacobs, in which he sets out to live the Bible literally for one year, he comments about how this parable hits him. He is not a Christian, but grew up in a secular Jewish family. At the beginning of the project he considers himself “agnostic at best.” He writes, “When I first read the parable of the prodigal son, I was perplexed…. It seems outrageously unfair. But that’s if you’re thinking quantitatively. If you’re looking at life as a balance sheet. There’s a beauty to forgiveness that goes beyond rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great and powerful one.” While Jacobs may never be an “evangelical Christian,” he is certainly on the heart of Jesus’ message. Forgiveness may be illogical in that people get what they do not deserve, but that is the beauty of the goodness of Jesus.