May 13, 2011, 4:07 PM
“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of sinners.‘ ” (Luke 19:7)
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Friend of Sinners who is none other than our Lord Jesus. He said with reference to himself; “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matthew 11:19) Jesus was not ashamed of the calibre of people teeming around him. It ties in with his name for he was born to save and deliver Israel and humanity from their sins.
How can you liberate sinners if you keep them at arm’s length, or you attempt to deal with them through an intermediary or worse still from the comfort of an ivory tower?
No, the place to be is in the streets with the people, the masses, at the grassroots level – with those who need a doctor not with the righteous. “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12) Only he has the remedy to purge us from our sins and also save us from damnation, because only he could pay the price of sin. Like a magnet, he pulled all manner of people to himself – the crippled, the leper, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the demon-possessed, the robber, the tax collector, the adulterer, the oppressed, downtrodden and social outcasts. He made no distinction whatsoever. All were welcomed!
They came in droves and followed him everywhere he went, with regard to the distance they had trekked or whether they had had something to eat or not. He miraculously fed well over 5,000 men (not counting the women and children) and on another occasion a crowd of 4,000 people with the little that there was available as food. Some of them joined the crowd out of curiosity to see this miracle-worker and teacher who taught like nobody else did. Everyone desperately wanted to receive healing, because for long they have been scarred by ailments that seemed incurable. As he touched them many were made whole permanently.
He fed their souls as well with the Word of life, underlining that the kingdom of God was at hand. He taught about God’s love for his creation and did not instil fear in them as did the Pharisees whose fingers were constantly pointing to the letter of the law (that they had fallen short) and their guilt. He dwelt more on the relationship of a Father and child so that each could get to know him fondly. He desired that we love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength.
Our Lord Jesus received all those who would come to him and he met them at their point of need. He travelled on foot all the way to Samaria just to retrieve one lost sheep – a Samaritan woman who was not living righteously. She was restored and established and she became the first female evangelist after she had brought a whole village to receive Jesus with open arms. For someone who had been despised by her village folks avoiding her like a plague, Jesus turned her circumstances around by restoring her respect and dignity. Her encounter with Jesus saved a whole village.
Our Lord said it publicly, “I have come not for the righteous, but for sinners.” He could see through everybody’s motive, because he looks at the heart. The ‘big shots’ ridiculed him for bringing himself so low by mingling with the wretched of the earth, sinners for that matter.
A lady, labelled a prostitute, once burst into the house of Simeon the Pharisee, where Jesus had been invited for dinner. There she wept bitterly at Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. She lavished expensive perfume on his feet as well. At this sight the host murmured to himself; “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) Having read his thoughts Jesus rebuked him for criticising her when he (Simeon the Pharisee) the host had not received him in keeping with the custom of the day.
All around us we see self-righteous Christians behaving like the Pharisee who was praying in the temple alongside a tax collector; “ ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me a sinner.’ “ (Luke 18:11-13) This is the conclusion our Lord Jesus drew. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” (Luke 11:14) When we come humbly before God and our Lord Jesus Christ, conscious of the weight of our sins then he would treat us as friends because we have recognised in him our Saviour. Forthwith, we receive cleansing and are justified (treated as if we have not sinned).