“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ So he got up and came to his father.” (Luke 15:17-20 NASB)
So, when did the younger brother, the one having wasted his share of the inheritance on wild living, actually repent? Was it when he “came to his senses”, when he determined to return to his father, or when he actually got up and headed back? The tax collectors and sinners crowded to Jesus to hear Him. Had they repented or was this definition of repentance for them as well as the Pharisees to whom Jesus responds?
Jesus begins His ministry crying out “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!” He sends His disciples out on two separate occasions, and their message is the same. And yet, as one of my friends who comments on these entries at times points out, Jesus healed people regardless of whether they demonstrate repentance or not. In fact in both instances of sending out His disciples, they too heal and cast out demons regardless of the repentant response.
So repentance can’t be the dividing line between the activity of God in the lives of people. It can only be seen as the dividing line between those who determine to live like Jesus and those who simply want to hear and be entertained. Jesus relied on proximity to proclaim His message of repentance. So if people came to be entertained, He used their proximity to announce a radical paradigm shift. Some took Him up on His offer, but most did not. Either way many were healed, had demons cast out, and were fed. In the process they had at least heard God calls us to a different life.
Here’s one of the sad ironies about this view of Jesus: If someone claims to have accepted Jesus’ radical paradigm shift and then refuses to be around the “sinners and tax collectors” of our day, then they’ve adopted the wrong paradigm. Over the centuries since Jesus said these words, walked these places, and did these things, many competing paradigms have emerged. They claim to be the world view of Jesus, His direct apostolic anointing, and so on. Unfortunately they bear only passing resemblance to Jesus’ life. Claim what you like, only the paradigm that matches the life of Jesus is the paradigm of a disciple. If we going to focus on making disciples, then we to be very careful to adopt the right paradigm.
So, perhaps only disciples are saved, and the process of salvation can be said to be repentance. But if so, then the result in a persons life should include proximity to sinners, ministry including the miraculous in their lives, and a call for them to repent. So whether the “sinners” are found on Wall Street or in Battery Park, the need for proximity remains, as does the work, as does the call to repentance.
So, that’s my two cents, to borrow from my friends comment from yesterday. What do you learn from Jesus’ description of repentance?