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A View from the Altar / Pursuit of sinners
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Pursuit of sinners

The Pharisees uttered the famous “Gospel in a grumble” in Luke 15:2, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Jesus responded with a series of stories as if to say, “And not only that…”

In the first story he compared God to a shepherd who lost a sheep and left most of the herd in the wilderness to go find the one.  Next he compared God to a woman who had lost a coin and searched the whole house till it was found.  Finally he compared God to a father whose wayward son offended him deeply by demanding an early inheritance, then wasted it all on party living.  When the son returned home as a failure, his father ran to greet him, embraced him, put clothes and shoes and a gold ring on him, then threw a lavish party of his own to celebrate his son’s return.

That was honestly more grace than the Pharisees thought was appropriate.

Recall the Lord’s reaction to Adam’s sin.  Adam was naked and ashamed and hid himself, but God came looking for him and calling his name.  While it’s true that God banished Adam and Eve from the garden, it’s also true that God promised them the coming of a Savior.  We now realize that their exile was only until the coming of the Just One, and reconciliation between God and man would take place through the broken body of God’s Son.

That’s not the last such story in the Bible.  When the Lord was suffering under Pontius Pilate, Peter sinned in a way very similar to Adam.  Disregarding the direct warning of the Lord, he denied with an oath that he even knew who Jesus was.  After the crowing rooster jogged his memory, the Lord looked at Peter who then fled like Adam did and spilled out his regret with weeping (Luke 22:60-62).

As with Adam, so with Peter, the Lord came looking for him.  Peter had gone fishing, and interestingly, the Lord found Peter also hastily clothed to cover his nakedness.  (John 21:7 KJV)  But Jesus came to where he was, shared a meal of bread and fish, received Peter warmly back into his fellowship and commissioned him into the Lord’s service.  Since nothing says “friend” like sharing a meal, Christ ate with Peter, then sent Peter to pass it along by feeding his lambs.  The Lord had not changed; it’s always God who pursues man, not the other way around.

But the times had changed.  God had come in the person of Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19).  Before the cross, Adam had to wait outside of Paradise for full fellowship with God, and his sentence was to eat bread by the sweat of his brow.  After the cross, Christ whose presence defines where Paradise is, came to Peter, brought full reconciliation with him, a meal of bread and fish, and sent that fellowship along our way too.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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