FRIEND OF SINNERS
Have you ever known someone about whom you might have said, “God can save anybody but that is the last guy I ever expect him to save!” That was the attitude of the Jews about tax collectors. Tax collectors were considered to be traitors. They collected taxes for Rome. There was no salary for tax collectors. They made their money from whatever they were able to overcharge people. Rome didn’t care. The tax collectors could keep whatever extra they were able to collect. As long as Rome got her money it just didn’t matter. So the Jews hated tax collectors. They were numbered among the “sinners” and the “unclean.” When Jesus called Levi to follow him there must have been a wide grumbling among the following crowd.
Jesus didn’t leave it there. Levi invited him and his disciples to dinner at his house. Jesus stirred up more discussion by accepting the invitation and sitting down to eat with many tax collectors and all kinds of other “sinners.” Sitting to eat with “sinners” automatically made a Jew unclean. So, not only was Jesus willing to call a “sinner” to be one of his disciples, he was also willing to be considered “unclean” by the Jewish religio-mafia.
That was all the teachers of the law and the Pharisees had to hear! Being a little gunshy of approaching Jesus personally, the religio-mafia confronted the poor disciples and asked about their master’s practice of eating with tax collectors and “sinners.” Much to their chagrin, Jesus heard them. He said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)
Who are our churches trying to reach out to? For whom are we planting a church here in Shafter? Are we doing this so the righteous will have a place to worship? Yes. But are we also in the business of reaching out to the lost, no matter how lost they may seem to be, and introducing them to the Jesus who was a friend of sinners? Yes! Too many churches are busy planning programs and spending money on themselves without thinking of ways to reach out and bring in the outcasts and sinners. If we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus then we need to do ministry in the same way he did!