The Pharisees taught a very scrupulous observance of Jewish Law. In their interpretation and practice, observant Jews who shared table fellowship with sinners would be made unclean. Like Jesus, the Pharisees hoped to lead sinners back to God. The Pharisees, however, required that sinners first become ritually clean—observant of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Jewish Law—before sharing table fellowship. This appears to be one of the major differences between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus reaches out to sinners while they are still sinners, inviting them to conversion through fellowship with him. Jesus is God acting among us; by befriending us, he is inviting us to return to friendship with God.
To challenge the Pharisees, and us, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Through friendship with Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we, like the prodigal son, experience new life.
- When was a time that you experienced fellowship that was unexpected? How does fellowship lead to conversion?
- What does it mean to have a friendship with Jesus? What strengthens that friendship? What weakens it?
Enjoy an Arts & Faith: Lent reflection on Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Return of the Prodigal Son.