Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” — Luke 15:1-2 (NIV)

Jesus attracted the wrong kind of crowd for the religious establishment of His day.  He drew in the outcasts and the disenfranchised.  He did more than casually acknowledge them.  He welcomed them and spent time with them.  He rubbed shoulders with those whom the holy joes considered to be the scum of the earth.  I can just imagine that the “sinners” inched ever closer to Christ to hear His teaching and experience His love and mercy.  I can also imagine that that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law kept a safe distance to mock and scorn.  Jesus wanted to get His hands dirty.  The religious leaders wanted to keep up appearances by scoffing in self-righteousness.

I love that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day see that Jesus welcomes sinners.  He doesn’t tolerate sinners.  He doesn’t acknowledge sinners.  The Greek word has as its root a word that means “expectation”.  He expected sinners to come and hang out with Him.  He came to chase after those who were lost (Luke 19:10, NIV).  It was those who thought that they had it all together that scorned Him and scoffed at Him.  It was the sinners who were welcome in His presence.  It was the dirty, good-for-nothing, spiritual losers for whom Jesus’ heart was beating.  People think that they have to clean up their act to come to Jesus.  Shame on Christians for perpetuating this myth!  You don’t go see a doctor after you’ve been healed.  You go see the doctor because you are sick!  You don’t come to Jesus after you’ve cleaned up your act.  You come to Jesus so He can clean up your act!  It is by God’s grace that we are welcomed, accepted and transformed.  You are welcome to come to Him just as you are.  No pretense.  No righteousness of your own.  With your wounds, scars, filth and sin, He will welcome you with open arms.  It is He who said, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3, NLT).  When you realize your spiritual poverty and are at the end of your spiritual rope, you’ll find that God is there to pick you up and rescue you.  That’s what a true Friend does.


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