Here’s a little thing about the best chapter in the Bible:
When I share these Bible things, they come from me reading through a book of the Bible and seeing what jumps out as something new or different or surprising. I’ve been through the four Gospels now, and for the most part, I come up empty once I get to the passion narratives, because they’ve all been pretty well picked over (I still need to give John’s passion a good-faith effort). The first third of Matthew, for some reason, also hasn’t grabbed me, and I’ve gone through that one at least twice.
But Luke 15, I just can’t improve on. I was going back to read that one again tonight and thought I should check the blog to see if I’d written anything already, and it turns out I hadn’t. I just said “Luke 15: I can’t improve on.” Which is still true.
But one thing jumped out that I will share anyway about this best of all chapters.
So Jesus tells three stories in this chapter, and I love love love how the Good News version of the New Testament titles them: The Lost Coin. The Lost Sheep. The Lost Son. The simplicity underscores the connection.
Of course the lost coin and lost sheep are really short setups for the main event, better known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son (and more accurately known, in my view, as the Parable of the Prodigal Father). Because, just as it is wasteful (or prodigal) to throw a party that costs a lot of money to celebrate finding a penny, and it is reckless to leave 99 good sheep unattended to go fine one laggard, so it is is wasteful and reckless to throw a huge party because the son who wished you dead, took half of your legacy and squandered it has finally come crawling back home.
Except that’s the wrong son.
Luke 15 starts “One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, “This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!”
It’s only if you read the chapter as a whole, instead of just parsing out the last parable, that you get that the Pharisees are the older son, unswayed by the return home of the wayward. That’s really the lost son.
This Lent, I guess I’m going to sit with when I am the “outcast”, when I am the grumbling Pharisee, and when I am the celebrating father.
Leave a Reply