The pharisees and the Temple authorities were right, you know. Jesus hung out with the worst people.
It’s true. In their eyes, at least. And those good ol’ pharisees, the keepers of Hebrew Law, even tried to help Jesus realize that. They’d try and help by pointing out that some of the people he spent time with were tax collectors and sinners. And that’s on a good day. Sometimes it was the sick, the poor, social outcasts, the ritually unclean and even prostitutes. There’s more, I’m sure, because there always seems to be an abundance of sinners, especially in the eyes of those who consider it their job to judge. I imagine they kept accurate lists of all the sinning those people had done so they could show Jesus documented proof. I’m not entirely certain they wanted Jesus to spend more time with them, they just wanted him stop hanging out with “those people” and being, well, inconvenient.
But that Jesus was stubborn. He didn’t give up on his misfits. He’d double down with a parable or two. Like the one about the shepherd who had one hundred sheep. He counts them one day and there’s only ninety-nine. So he leaves them and goes in search of the one missing sheep. When he finds it, he brings it back and has a party to celebrate. (I hope they didn’t serve mutton.)
Or the woman who had ten coins. (Ugh, that just reminded them he spends too much time with women, too.) She counts her coins one day and there’s only nine. She lights lamps and scours her house from one end to the other looking for it. When she finds it, she invites friends over and throws a party to celebrate.
I have a feeling that the pharisees didn’t get the point. Or, I suppose they did, in fact, get the point and it just made them angry and defensive.
The real question is do we? From all these stories of Jesus and all these stories Jesus told, do we get that people in need are not “the wrong people?” Do we get that God’s love is most extravagant to those most in need? Do we get that we need to be that love? Do we get that’s a moment worth celebrating?
Yes, grace is messy. (And kudos to whoever said that first. It sure wasn’t me, but they’re sure right about that.) It’s complicated, it needs discernment and care. Yes, there’s risk reaching out and yes, it needs some work. But God’s love can’t stay in the pen with the other sheep or in the purse with the other coins or the church with the most seats. It needs to get out there and “bring good news to the poor … proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” That would be Jesus, earlier in Luke, reading from the prophet Isaiah.
Why can’t we do that without judgement? Or a cost analysis? I know, as a society, we’ve learned to value, compare and look for the best deal, but this isn’t about dollars and cents, it’s about love and grace. There’s still a price. But imagine the value when the broken are healed, the unloved find love, the tired rest, and the imprisoned soul is freed.
Be like Jesus. Go embrace “the wrong people.”