Oct 9 2022 Jesus, Friend of Sinners?
9th October 2022
Jesus, friend of sinners
Last week we looked at accepting other believers.
Jesus, friend of sinners – this week we look at accepting people like Jesus did.
Jesus had a reputation. He did not call Himself ‘friend of sinners’ – (not that he minded the title?) – but He had this reputation.
When we talk about not judging – we tend to jump to the balance of what is being said – “What about judging with righteous judgment? But that is not what Romans 14 was about – if you want to talk about that verse – we need to look at its context.
I googled “Jesus friend of sinners” – and a bunch of songs came up – but the first article that came up was really about taking it the wrong way.
If we take it at its face value – people think we will be soft on sin and remind us that bad company corrupts good morals.
If your mind goes there – then you are the ‘bad guy’ in the passage – because that is where the ‘bad guys’ in the passage – where their minds go.
John the Baptist… - Jesus is talking about him and says this:
Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
One reason this happens – not just with us, as Christians, but in the media and everywhere – “yeah, but” – and that comes from a position of fear. Fear of “if I don’t say this, the world will end!” but it doesn’t belong in the conversation that is taking place.
What we are going to do – look at the call of Matthew. I did a search on my Bible program on ‘sinners’ – and in just the gospels, there are about 2 pages of verses. Matthew’s call is in 3 of the gospels:
Matthew 9: 9 And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he rose, and followed Him.
A tax collector was an enemy – working with the government – almost functioning like the 20’s gangsters functioned – think of the mafia
And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.
The most notorious group in Israel! Tax collectors and sinners. We know it had to do with sexual sin, but it dealt with other sins as well.
Matthew would have been ostracized and outcast from the people of Israel. It doesn’t give us any background in his relationship with Jesus, but what is it that made him be comfortable with getting up and following Jesus. Yes, I get it – it was Jesus! But he had to have some understanding that Jesus would welcome Him. Jesus was having table-fellowship with the most notorious of sinners – and it comes with full acceptance. It symbolized religious compatibility.
It was Jesus saying – these people and I, from a spiritual standpoint – are compatible. It was much more than having coffee at Starbucks!
11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"
For us, the Pharisees are the bad guys – but do not judge them too hastily or harshly – they were concerned that Jesus was being soft on sin.
“The Pharisees were interested in saving their people from the ravages of paganism” – that sounds pretty good – there are people today
“They were convinced that they were fighting for ethical purity and truth” “They waged a contest for the higher concept of human behavior which reflected the will of the God of Israel”
With that being their purpose, they misunderstood Jesus’ mission and the reason for their nation’s current circumstances. But Jesus lays it out for them:
Here is His purpose:
12 But when He heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (to repentance)
SO His mission and purpose were to heal the sick, find the lost, and save sinners. Not to separate from them or to keep them away from hurting the rest of the community – but to go to them and make them healthy.
The Pharisees were afraid of being contaminated by these peoples’ sin and impurity – and they were concerned that their sin and impurity would contaminate the nation and it would bring more judgment upon them.
“Jesus does not fear being contaminated by sinners, but instead contaminates sinners with God’s grace and power”
He understood that He contaminated – infected – them, rather than the other way around. He transmits blessings upon them. If the maintaining of religious life is maintaining purity – one looks at others as ones who will make us impure – but rather – Jesus looks to turn tax-gatherers into disciples.
Yes, it was Jesus – and we have Jesus in us – with the same mission, purpose, and power – because He is in us – to transform those who are contaminated into disciples.
One other thing He says – I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.
He understood sin. Right and wrong. Good and evil. But He does not possess the anxiety and fear that the Pharisees do. Because of their anxiety and fear, they are unable to learn the lessons that this passage is trying to teach us.
How does Jesus treat the worst kind of sinners? Who are the worst types of sinners? No names, just categories! How can I be like Jesus to ‘that kind’
And the second question – who is really righteous? In this story – those who thought they were righteous were not and Jesus treats others as the righteous.
Is there enough evidence to accuse ME of being a ‘friend of sinners’ – especially toward that category I consider the worst.
Luke 15 is the prodigal son chapter and we often jump to that… but this first:
Luke 15:1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
ALL the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Him – can that be said of us? Are all the worst kind of categories coming to church to listen to us? Hardly.
This is a contrast – these two verses. The tax collectors and sinners were unclean, unrighteous, the worst of sinners – and then you have Jesus – completely righteous – pure, holy – without sin.
Those who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus – Andy Stanley
And then the Pharisees – a contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees.
2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
They would have considered themselves to be righteous, holy, pure – and the question – from Andy Stanley – does your righteousness push people away – like the Pharisees, or draw people in, like Jesus?
This is hard for us to wrap our brains around. There is a righteousness – a keeping of the laws of righteousness that pushes people away – and a Jesus kind that draws people in.
The parable of the sheep – 99 righteous – 1 wanders away – who relates to sheep? Who would even notice one being gone? But it was so valuable that they left the 99 to find the one.
Then the woman with coins – and she loses one – and for us – coins are coins – we keep them in jars and leave them by the register – but it was so valuable…
Then there are the sons – you lose one – you don’t say – well, I have a couple others.
You lose your credit card – you don’t say – Well, I lost my visa, but I’ve got my Mastercard – I got this from Andy Stanley – but the thing that was lost is valuable to the person who lost it.
When God looks at people – he does not see Tax collectors and sinners.
We all categorize people – beliefs, theology, color of skin, etc. – Jesus had two categories -the found and the lost – and the lost are valuable to Him.
We need to learn to see our categories as not categories – but as the lost who need to be found. Not lost, like, they’re so lost. He looks at it from this positive sense of – it is not derogatory toward the lost coin or keys or card.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost – Luke 19:10
It would be of great benefit for us to think of those we deem ‘the worst’ – and to seek and to bring them to Jesus so that they might be found.
One last verse:
He did not come for the righteous but to call sinners to repentance. How did Matthew repent? He left his life to follow Jesus. It is turning to God.
Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
It is not guilt. It is not making someone feel bad about themselves.
The Pharisees believed they were under judgment from Israel disobeying the Laws that they were under judgment -
Matthew 9:13 13 "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (to repentance)
The Israelites had lost mercy, compassion, and love – but were doing all the religious things.