When we try to limit Jesus' anger to the Pharisaical, we forget that there was the little episode of overturning the vendors' tables at the temple (Mark 11:15-19, Matthew 21:12-17; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22,. And what about the poor fig tree that withered away in Matthew 21:17-20?
When we go down the path of "Jesus the law breaker" too far, we tend to ignore Jesus the law giver. At the very onset of the parable we are told that the sinners and tax collectors themselves were drawing near to Jesus. Was it magnetism, or did they want to hear his Word, His life changing and soul directing law which He was giving free of charge to all who made the effort to come to Him? I was left wondering, "What parables or words did He tell them?"
An excellent sermon on today's Gospel can be found at A North Woods Anglican. Father Dean A. Einerson starts by describing the two parables that precede the parable of the prodigal son and goes on to quote one possible answer to the question I posed in my second paragraph.
"The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are told in this context and they are told to the Pharisees and the scribes. These two parables are told to let the Pharisees and scribes again come to grips with what Jesus is doing. Remember back when Jesus was preaching in his home town at the beginning of his ministry and he read from Isaiah:The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to 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 favor. (4:18-19)
Here he is indeed proclaiming good news. He is proclaiming release and recovery and freedom. He is proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, but he is not doing it at the expense of the Pharisees. He is seeking the one per cent who are lost but God does not forget the ninety-nine who are not lost and so he tells another parable."
Read the whole thing.
And just what was it that those tax collectors and sinners were hearing when they sat and dined with Jesus? Paul gives us a strong hint in today's reading from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
"...we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." v. 20
It is the same call that calls me each time I approach His altar. That act of reconciliation is not a one-way street. It is not something I can ever do by my own power and will. Reconciliation is a deep and complex subject, but I know it is complete through Jesus. That is why I keep coming back for more.