Read: Matthew 9
Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (Matthew 9:10-11)
I love that about Jesus, don’t you? He didn’t come to impress the religious elite or hang out with spiritual celebrities. He didn’t set up shop in Jerusalem and buy airtime on JBN (Jerusalem Broadcasting Network). He didn’t write a book about himself or put on a leadership conference or lead a church growth seminar.
He hung out with sinners!
The reason? He explains in the next verse: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” (Matthew 9:12, NLT) It would have been a complete dereliction of duty and an abject failure in his mission if he would have done anything else. People were lost—they needed to be found. People were in bondage to sin—they needed to be delivered. People were sick and dying—they needed a healer. People were confused and hopeless—they needed a Lord. People were beat down and harassed by a religious system that squeezed the life and joy out of them—they needed a champion. What a champion they got in Jesus—and then some!
What a hero! Jesus was exactly what the poor, outcast, marginalized and hopeless needed. That was the purpose for which he came and he fulfilled his purpose brilliantly. That is why I love this story so much.
Yet that is why this story makes me extremely uncomfortable. You see, if Jesus were to come today, would he feel comfortable in my church? Would he want to hang out with my friends? How would he fit in my social circle? The very fact that I find this contemporary portrayal of Jesus hanging out with beer swilling gang-bangers offensive–and my guess is that it does you, too–tells me that I would have been right alongside those Pharisees questioning the kind of invitations to dinner Jesus had been accepting. Perhaps Jesus would say to you and me what he said to the Pharisees,
“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NLT)
Ouch! I’ve got to be honest: There are not a whole lot of “other disreputable sinners” hanging out in my world. Something tells me that really ought to change if Jesus if going to fit in my world—or more importantly, if I am going to fit in Jesus’ world.
“When Jesus came to earth, demons recognized him, the sick flocked to him, and sinners doused his feet and head with perfume. Meanwhile he offended pious Jews with their strict preconceptions of what God should be like. Their rejection makes me wonder, could religious types be doing just the reverse now? Could we be perpetuating an image of Jesus that fits our pious expectations but does not match the person portrayed so vividly in the Gospels?” ~Phillip Yancey
What If God Took Over?
If you don’t have any “other disreputable sinners” in your life, your assignment is simply this: Get some!