Formations 09.20.2020: Stealing the Show

Luke 15:1-10

The grumblers threaten to steal the show in this short scene from Jesus’ life. Let’s imagine how it would play out in a community theater production.

When the curtain rises, the first people we see are the sinners and tax collectors. Imagine the sinners looking dirty, wearing ragged clothing, their hair unkempt. Imagine the tax collectors looking wily and maybe even gaudy, overdressed because of their thievery. The whole weird group draws near to Jesus, who right now is standing back in the corner, upstage left, barely noticeable at this point.

And then it’s the grumblers’ turn. They’re dressed in the clothing that signifies their upstanding work in the community as scribes and Pharisees. They are the religious authorities. They have the wisdom. They know better than everyone else.

Those of us in the audience can see them up close and personal—basically centerstage. We can see the sneering expressions on their faces. We can observe their haughty posture as the outcasts and rejects move past them toward Jesus. We can hear their snide remarks as they grumble, their jealousy practically dripping off of them.

“See that fellow? He welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

The lines are delivered in tones of disgust and malice. We might, for a moment, identify with the judgment they’re making. Why would a supposedly great leader choose to hang out with sinners and tax collectors when he could be seen in the presence of the community’s great thinkers? Why be with the unimportant people when you can be with the most important?

These grumblers threaten to steal the show, but they don’t because Jesus, in a couple of simple, idyllic stories, reveals their motives and undermines their leadership. Unlike the grumblers, the common people—those sinners—who are listening to Jesus know all about lost sheep. If they haven’t lost one, they know someone who has. And all of them definitely know the desperation of missing a coin. As for the tax collectors, something gets through to them about the way this man values life and appreciates the small things.

The spotlight goes dark on the grumblers and then quietly brightens over Jesus and the little crowd listening to him. He’s not centerstage. He’s still in the back corner, letting the people come to him whenever they choose. But he has most definitely stolen the show. His monologue will stand out as a pivotal moment that displays the ever-seeking love of God. All people are important in God’s kingdom.

Discussion

  • Does it help you to visualize a biblical scene in this way? If so, how?
  • How does Jesus’ humility contrast with the arrogance of the scribes and Pharisees? Why do you think it was so important to biblical writers to point out this contrast?
  • In what ways can you identify with how it feels to lose something that seems small but is actually of significant value?
  • How does it feel to consider your own value in the eyes of God?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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