Are the Pharisees “Saved”?

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Lk. 15:1-2 NAU)

And He said, “A man had two sons.” (Lk. 15:11 NAU)

We spend a lot of time snickering at the Pharisees described in the Gospels.  Jesus seems merciless in His denouncement of them many times.  And here, Jesus responds to their “grumbling” with a series of parables. But rather than say, as Jesus has before, that being descendant from Abraham won’t “save” you, Jesus seems to include them as sons, and “good sons” at that.  So are Pharisees “saved”? Or just these? Or is Jesus just making a different point about acceptance?

Keep in mind that Luke is writing to a different audience, a Gentile audience.  This audience of Luke has suffered at the hands of Jewish believers or Jews in general who sometimes required Jewish custom as part of the life of a believer.  This tension between the groups can be seen often in Acts and in the letters of Paul to various churches in both Europe and Asia.  It wasn’t simply a local problem centered around once church or city.

What makes this question all the more interesting is the preceding statements of Jesus about the cost of discipleship.  Those costs would beg the question whether these Pharisees and scribes have paid that cost.  I’m also asking this question with the understanding that the point of all three parables is the joy expressed by God over a repentant soul, and the invitation to join Him.  It’s not about whether the Pharisees and scribes were “saved” in any sense.  It’s about them welcoming back these sinners and tax collectors without expecting more punishment for them than they’ve already experienced.

The reason I’m exploring this is I sense that, while I’m expected to rejoice over the repentant, I’m not included in those who are rejoiced over when they repent.  In once sense I feel like an example of the younger brother who doesn’t get a party when he repents. Now, to use the setting of this parable (or abuse it, you decide), it’s isn’t that I’ve taken my inheritance into a far country.  Instead I’ve stayed home and run the family farm into the ground.  I suppose in one sense I reached a point where me and “dad” were sitting on the porch looking out over the desolation of what used to be a thriving farm.

I say this to bring up a point.  If the roles were switched, would the sinners and tax collectors rejoice over repentant Pharisees?  I think that had the older brother come in the house, the younger brother would have been grateful, but would he have rejoiced over what it took for the older brother to come in?  I don’t know if I’ve made this clear or not, but basic need for a “repentance party” isn’t restricted to the ones who travel out and come back.  Sometimes those who simply made a “local mess” want one too.  I believe that in heaven, when the “local sinning Pharisee” repents, they get a party too.

So, at the risk of wallowing in self-pity, and sounding like someone missed my birthday, let me just say that I’m not referring to a recent event.  You’re not likely to find something like what I’m referring to in my blog entries or even in my comments on other blogs.  It’s more like a regret from a former part of my life that still aches from time to time.  I hope I never make the mistake of not rejoicing over a repentant soul, regardless of how far or how close they’ve been.

Oh, and I believe the answer to the question is no.  Do you remember the question?  What’s your view through this knothole?

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Matt Brumage

Educated for Christian ministry, but currently working in the business world.

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