The Friend of Sinners (Part 1)
You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you.
Everyone who knows anything about the gospels—and even those who do not—knows that Jesus Christ was a friend of sinners. He often drew the eye of the scribes and Pharisees for eating with sinners (Luke 15:2). Jesus clearly recognized that one of the insults hurled against Him was that He was “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). As Christians, we love to sing of this Pharisaical put-down because it means that Jesus is a friend to sinners like us.
If we are to celebrate that the Lord Jesus is a glorious friend of sinners (and we should) we should pay careful attention to the ways in which Jesus actually was a friend to sinners.
In the four gospel accounts, I find five occasions when the Lord was chastised by the religious leaders for being the friend of sinners.
First: We have the account of the Lord Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector to be His disciple, in Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; & Luke 5:27-32. Here we find the Lord reclining at table with many tax collectors and sinners, “for there were many that followed Him” (Mark 2:15). When the scribes and Pharisees grumble about the company the Lord keeps, Jesus tells them that He has “not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Second: In Matthew 11:16-19, Luke 7:31-35, Here the Lord rebukes the “people of this generation” because they rejected John the Baptist for being too tight and reject the Son of Man for being too loose. It is from this incident that we get the phrase “friend of sinners.” Being a friend of sinners did not mean that the Lord Jesus compromised His standards. He never participated or gave approval to their wayward ways, but He did care enough to get to know people. The closer He got, the more they knew that He cared. Today, know that the Friend of sinners, cares for you!
Merciful Father, Thank You, that Your Son came seeking and save lost sinners like me. Amen.