4th Sunday of Lent C 2016

 “THIS MAN WELCOMES SINNERS AND EATS WITH THEM”. 
Jesus addresses this charge in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Any study of the parable must address the context and this question. It is not a parable about which son is the better or even the outstanding mercy of the father. It is about why Jesus eats with the ritually unclean, the publicans and sinners. 
The mercy of the Father explains why Jesus eats with sinners. The younger son is an example of Gods’ compassion and infinite forgiveness. For him the fatted calf is prepared, the banquet is ready. There is a celebration of resurrection. O Happy day! 
The older son is not so happy!  “Look, all these years I have slaved for you, I have never once disobeyed your orders, yet you have never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate”……. This is the key to the teaching of Jesus. Do you think the elder son got a bad deal? If you do you have missed the point. 
Let us look at it this way. Banquets in the Scriptures are often another word for “Heaven”. In the parable the younger son and the father are at the banquet. The elder son is invited and he refuses to come. He spends all his life in long and obedient service to his master and yet he missed out on heaven. It is because of his angry response, “this son of yours when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women…..”, his resentment. “He was angry and refused to go in”. 
 Consider the two brothers.  Which one got the good deal and which one got the bad deal? It is not about that. It is about which one got to dine with Jesus. The only one who got a bad deal was the fatted calf!!!!. Both boys were very naughty. Like all of us we fall short of the high standards that Jesus expects. Jesus is happy to dine with us always. The condition of entry to the banquet is forgiveness of one another. God is welcoming to the lost who are found. There is no limit to how lost we have been as long as “we come to our senses”. 
Do you want Jesus to dine with you? If we can keep our mouth free of angry words and insults and “come to our senses” we will be treated like sons and daughters of the King. 
Why does Jesus dine with sinners? The good people are invited but they choose not to come.  Not too subtle!

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