This parable is told as part of a response by Jesus to the Pharisees.
He is very clear in his opposition to their legalistic piety, and self-centred ethos.
They question his authority and he responds with this and then the parable of The Landowner .
He points out that they have got it wrong, are on the wrong path, are ignoring the lost sheep.
They have lost the spirit of their religion within their maze of regulations.
Closed the door on the needy to preserve their own integrity.
Focussed on self rather than neighbour.
Focussed on their own salvation.
They have joined the gang in the heavenly life-boat, rejoicing, and closed their eyes to those still swimming.
They are assured that all the other life-boats are heading away from land, lost.
They have even denied the right of others to grab onto a free-floating plank.
Jesus swims with us, offers us his own life-jacket,
points to the possibility of rescue, gives us hope.
The priesthood bear a special responsibility.
They have, at our expense, been given special opportunities to learn about things of the Spirit.
They have been offered the keys to the Kingdom and yet so few of them have the courage to use them.
The gang culture that supports them is too strong, too all-pervasive, too much to challenge.
We may tremble at the thought of presenting new ideas
in the face of the assembled opposition of the evangelical church,
the disapproval of those who think that they have a right to correct others.
Do other people also see that the emperor is naked, or is it only me?
Are they equally frightened of stating their case?
The public face of the faith, that we are called to proclaim, to live out and to support has its own agenda.
It is a religion crafted by the inheritors of the mantle of those very Pharisees that Jesus challenged in his day.
A religion that focusses on individual rectitude, personal salvation. on self.
On what is contrary to the self-giving love of God
Jesus commends the response of the tax collectors and prostitutes,
those who have rejected the national and the moral codes of the community.
They responded to John's message, realised its import and changed their life's focus.
They were still tax collectors and prostitutes (the only trade they knew) but their focus was changed.
They had hope of a new world in which the God of love would be king; where love of neighbour would be more important than love of self;
in which pride and position would be redundant; in which lies and betrayal would be no more.
They had hope that things would change, whilst the Pharisees were firmly bound to the status quo.
We too need to rethink our hidebound theology, re-imagine the reality of what Jesus taught;
to change our focus from self to society, from individual salvation to global survival,
from liturgy and legalism to love.