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righteous criticism

In fact, the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him [Jesus of Nazareth c. AD30] to hear him. And, conversely, the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling, stating that, “This man is receiving sinners and eating with them.” (Luke 15: 1)
A great crowd has been following Jesus – but the crowd itself is divided. Some were enthusiastic towards him. Others were critical because the enthusiasts – those drawing near to Jesus so as to hear exactly what he had to say – were, in general, tax collectors (working for Rome the occupying force in Jerusalem) and sinners.

This was a super opportunity to criticize the over-popular (in their eyes) Jesus. “This man is receiving sinners and eating with them.”

In fact, he said - towards them - this parallel, stating: “What man among you, having a hundred sheep and having lost one out of them, does not leave behind the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go himself on his own way, over the lost one, until he may find it? And, having found, he places it upon his own shoulders, rejoicing. And, coming into the home, he calls together the friends and the neighbors, stating to them, ‘Rejoice together with me, in that I have found the sheep of mine, the lost one.’” 

I wonder what they thought about this man in the parallel – the parallel directed towards them. Would they too go out to pursue one lost sheep? Or stay with the flock? After all, 99% is worth keeping rather than risk all for 1%.

It’s strange – the way in which Luke – Jesus’ first-century biographer – records the words of Jesus about the man pursuing the last sheep. He describes him as going “himself on his own way, over the lost one, until he may find it…” Jesus’ way (the only way) of finding and saving lost sheep – via the cross - is hinted at in these his own words to the crowd.

“I state to you that, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one repenting sinner than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not have need of repentance.” 

We aren’t told when. That is, when there is this joy in heaven. 

What we are told has only to do with greater or less joy in heaven. Greater over the 1 in 100 who repents than over the 99 righteous.

What seems to be the issue here is the supreme importance to Jesus of the one lost sheep who is found by him. That one finds himself or herself brought “home” on his shoulders.

So let’s all criticise him for befriending traitors and sinners. After all, we’re both righteous and right - as well as unrepentant.

Sinner Syvret

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