In as much as our sin and the fall separated us from God, it separated God from us . . .
We long to be with our Father and our Father longs to be with us
It's bad enough that tax collectors were lining their own pockets, but they were also seen as collaboraters with with Rome; keep the level of the peoples hatred of them in mind while reading this text.
Sinners in this context is beyond our understanding of "everybody is a sinner". These would be people that 'lived a public life' in sin. Prostitutes, gamblers, pimps, etc.
other side of room were lined with the intellectuals, rich, powerful; they enforced the religous law of the day. they were the ultimate rule keepers
in this culture eating together was intimate, spending hours together, it was a way of saying, "I accept you just the way you are"
one side was there because they hated Jesus, the other because they loved him
This room is a powder keg; think Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama, Rabid UT fans and the new coaching staff at USC; Glenn Beck and . . . well anyone else
The sinners and tax collectors relate to the parable as the younger brother . . . the pharasees and scribes would be akin to the older brother
Scripture ~ Luke 15:11-32
the younger sons request for his inheritence is the same as his younger son telling him that he wished he was dead
He wants what the father can offer, not a relationship
in this culture it would be expted for the father to respond to this disrespectful request with voilence and if they survived they would be banished from the family. amazingly the father didn't do this, he honored the request instead
the obvious happens, the younger son realizes as he's sitting in a pig pen that even his fathers servants have food to eat; so he goes back to be a servant of his father; to his surprise though his father rushes out to him and affirms the love that the father had for the younger son