Sunday, 4 March 2018

Eating with sinners

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Matthew 9.10-13

Jesus was constantly upsetting people. Well, He was upsetting their ideas of behaviour and religion. Here He really ruffled some feathers. He had just called Matthew, a tax collector, to be a disciple.

And then, as he sat down to dinner the strangest thing happened. The place began to fill up with ‘publicans and sinners.’ The publicans were not put owners, these were something like revenue officers who collected taxes from the public. The sinners were an amalgamation of well know ne’er do wells. It’s the kind of crowd you wouldn’t necessarily expect a well-known teacher to sit down with.

The scribes and the Pharisees, the religious guys, couldn’t handle it. ‘What is Jesus doing sitting down to eat with all the dirty sinners?’ Doesn’t He know we can‘t defile ourselves with them?

I think we can hear that ourselves when we hang around the ‘wrong kind’ of people. There are folks who think that we should only spend time with other believers. Some take separation to the point that we separate totally from those who need us the most.

I once had a good friend here in Ireland that ‘if you want to get your message to people you are going to have to get your hands dirty.’ Jesus said kind of the same thing. ‘I didn’t come to bring the righteous to repentance, but sinners.’

If we are going to reach the world with the glorious news of salvation through faith in Christ alone we are going have to go those who need. We have to spend time with them. I can’t just go knock a door or invite them to church or hand them a tract. Those are all good and proper things that we should all do.

But our best witness is going to be with those we spend time with. They get to see us in all kinds of situations. We back up our words by our actions. We do things with them so they can see the reality of Christ in our lives.

And why do we do that? To get another notch on our gospel belt?

No we do that because we love people and we want them to have the same joy we have in knowing Jesus. We do it because we want to spend eternity with them in heaven. We do it because we want them to know that there is hope beyond the grave and we want them to be assured that they have that hope.

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