|Photo by Clifford J. Downey|
Some people do not think they need any help at all when it comes to God. They do not need a savior. They do not need a modern day Moses to rescue them from an oppressive ruler because they ARE the ruling power. They may not wear the crown, but they make all the rules. They call all the shots. They pull all the strings. They control their own destiny, so they do NOT need a savior.
They do not need a savior, and they do not need a prophet. They do not need a spanking new Samuel to interpret God’s laws. They are intelligent, well educated people. They can read scripture for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Of course, they usually do not read it for themselves because they believe they already know all the answers. So they do not need a savior, and they do not need a prophet.
And they sure don’t need a judge. They do not need an up-to-date Deborah to hear their case because they are the ones who sit in judgment on everyone else. In fact, they keep very detailed records of everyone else’s offenses. Of course, they never note their own. So they do not need a savior, and they do not need a prophet, and they do not need a judge.
So they really don’t need an ambassador. They do not need a juicy new Joshua to scout out foreign lands and see what lies ahead. They are happy to stay right where they are.
It’s no wonder these people are completely mystified by Jesus! He did not just ATTRACT sinners and tax collectors; he WELCOMED them! Jesus welcomed people who were unclean! Jesus welcomed people who broke the law! Jesus welcomed people who could contaminate all the rest of the community with their bad habits and bad choices and bad hygiene. Jesus welcomed people whom the law declared unpardonable, inexcusable, and utterly beyond redemption.
Jesus welcomed sinners. He made room for them. He sought them out. Jesus treated sinners like honored guests. And that makes no sense to Scribes and Pharisees. Grace is a mystery to anyone who tries to live by the law. Righteousness is not something we can earn. We will NEVER be good enough for God! We cannot make things right. We cannot make ourselves right. God has to do it for us. God has to come to us.
God is not a stingy old goat, hoarding grace for only a privileged few. God is loving. God’s mercy overflows. And God is waiting for us to come to our senses and make our way home. God is watching and waiting and hoping.
God keeps a close eye on the road. And, whenever one lost child begins that long journey home, God sees us and comes to us. Even while we are still far off, God sees us and runs out to greet us. God welcomes us. God is thrilled when even one beloved child returns home.
Why? Because we are God’s children. God made us, and God loves us. And God wants there to be peace between us. God does not want to be cut off from His children. God wants all of us kids to find our way home.That is why God sent Jesus into the world and why Jesus sent disciples out into the world. That is why God sends believers out into the world now: to reconcile the whole world to God. To preach love and mercy and grace. To lift up the cross. Because, at the cross, there is forgiveness for ALL, all those who think they need it, and all those who think they don’t.