“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them…” — Luke 15:1-32
There are two ways I (and perhaps you too) avoid the gospel. Having just sinned, usually carnally, in tangible ways that weigh on my heart and relationships, I cower under the shame of my sin. My heart now revolves around the guilt that I carry around and I never truly come to the cross empty-handed. The second way shows itself when I have “avoided” egregious sin. I expect that my life will be good, and walk around as if I am several steps close to God for having not sinned. In both cases, I am far from communing with Jesus in the gospel.
Look around at your life today. If you’re like me, your life is oozing with some naive sense of self rightesousness. Every time I feel better about myself in my good moments, or worse about myself in my bad moments, I’m centering my sense of worth on myself. If I really thought about it, this would be foolish, for I know I’m corrupt. Yet my instinct is to turn inward and base my life on myself. What an enslaving way to live! Notice the younger brother’s attitude right before he returns to his father. He plans out a thoughtful, calculated apology that he will deliver on his knees to his dad. His father though, beats him to the punch. He smothers him with grace and will not even allow an explanation. I like to imagine the father running unannounced through some bushes and tackling his son with glee and excitement. His delight far outweighs his disappointment.
Whether you find yourself in little brother or big brother shoes today, God’s grace is for the unworthy. Notice how the passage opens. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him.” No one else seems to be doing so. The Pharisees stand afar off and grumble, thinking themselves above this crowd. We must draw near to Jesus with him and his grace in mind, even in our most “righteous” moments.
Which brother do you empathize with today?
How are you, like the older brother, negotiating with God for his blessing?
Have you been coming to Jesus as a defense lawyer lately, making a case for why you should or shouldn’t get his blessing? How would truly relying on God’s grace enable you to confess sin with more joy and expectation?