When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw [Jesus] eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (Mark 2:16)
The self-righteous Pharisees and teachers of the law could not comprehend why Jesus would associate with the hated tax collectors and people who were regarded as “sinners” for one simple reason: They were blind to their own sin. Yet their indignant question to Jesus’ disciples, which was meant as an insult, provides a source of great comfort for all those who understand their own sinful, fallen, and broken condition.
To know that Jesus is a friend of sinners — to know that He actually wants to be with us– is to understand a profound and promising biblical truth. First, to be a friend of sinners means that Jesus willingly subjected Himself to living in a sinful, fallen, and broken world. As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus came down off His heavenly throne, took on flesh, and dwelt among us. Now, that is profound! Second, to be a friend of sinners means that Jesus intentionally invites us into an intimate, personal relationship with Him, even though we were rebels on the run away from Him, just like Adam and Eve ran from God back in the Garden. Now, that is promising!
The self-righteous religious leaders who were scandalized by Jesus’ choice of companions believed their right standing before God was rooted in rigorous following of their rituals and rules. For them, it was all about the externals. But Jesus made it clear that our right standing before God is rooted in a right relationship with Him. And let me make something perfectly clear: The reason Jesus ate with sinners is because they were the only ones He had to eat with, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Jesus sought out relationship with the outcasts, the socially unwanted, the marginalized, and the ostracized. He came to seek and save the lost.
Regardless of where this message finds you today, whether you are weathering storms or basking in sunshine, Jesus came for you. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. And He is coming back for you. Remember, Jesus being a friend of sinners did not mean He condones sinful behavior. He didn’t spend time with sinners to join in their sinful ways. Rather, in His infinite love, Jesus was calling sinners like you and me to turn way from our sin and turn toward our Savior. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” He promises us; “though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!