One of the things I’ve noticed afresh by reading Luke so closely has been the way in which it seems to point to the Pharisees. They are there in every chapter – not front and centre but present nonetheless. Sometimes, as here in chapter 15, they warrant only a sentence, a few words over which your eyes could easily flit. Mine probably did many times, skipping over them to the parables.
It isn’t really surprising that a Christian should be drawn to the words of Jesus; I don’t think we should berate ourselves for that. However, it is important to notice what lies between these passages.
‘The Scribes and the Pharisees grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners”’.
It is always a shock to read that Jesus was a victim of this kind of thinking. Who would place their interpretation of the law above the perfection of Christ? Well, people who think that the law is supreme tend to be blinded by that – even, as we see throughout this Gospel, to the point of it eclipsing the Lord. They measure him against the standard of the law as they see it. The question in their minds was always, ‘does this man meet the criteria’?
Never once did the wonderful truth dawn on them: this Man is the criteria.
We need to be so careful in our rush to judge, to rebuke, to admonish, that we are not grieving the Spirit while he is at work in someone else. Perhaps, when I look at someone askance and think, ‘that’s certainly not how I would honour the Lord’, I should readjust my perspective.
For, as I’m watching them, what does God see in me? Someone who has a lot of theory about how he should be glorified, and little practice. Let’s give him our imperfect worship, our broken prayers, our stumbling service: he doesn’t look to us for perfection; why would he when he finds it in himself?