When you read the Bible it sometimes makes you wonder how some people think. In this section of scripture the Pharisees and scribes murmured amongst themselves saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Verse 2) It never ceases to amaze me why these people were so staggered at this situation. If they had spent just a few moments considering who Jesus was and what he was doing, then perhaps they would not have asked dumb questions…but then we would not have Jesus’ answers to learn from.
Jesus came for many reasons, but in relation to salvation he said this, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) Now it was also pretty obvious that when he preached, those who came to him and were helped and healed by him were sinners.
The so called “righteous” people of the day were indignant. They followed Jesus too, often for the purpose of trying to trap him in his speech, but they also recognised he had power. These people were the established religion of the day and were supposed to be the ministers of God to teach the people, but more often they were not doing the word to which they were entrusted.
And Jesus shows here one of the reasons why they were not doing that work. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty! They didn’t want to get amongst the rough and tumble of the “common people” and be soiled by them. They were judgemental and thus they grumbled at Jesus when He went and spoke and ate with these sinners.
The Lost Sheep
We also see Jesus state that his mission was to preach the word only to the sinners of Israel, and yet his power and compassion was known also amongst the Gentiles. He confirmed this when speaking to a Canaanite woman saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) However in that case the woman showed great faith and the Lord granted her desire for a healing of her daughter.
So in this section in Luke 15 we see Jesus use the analogy of a lost sheep saying, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?” (Verse 4)
Sheep farmers will protect their flocks and herds and if any go missing will go after them to bring them back. Jesus is saying in this verse that He too is like that farmer. When any of his flock go astray he will go after them to bring them back into the fold. A sinner is one who has gone astray, but when they turn to the Lord and come to him it is like that farmer finding and bringing back the missing sheep.
And as Jesus says, there is immense joy when a sinner repents. When a sinner comes to Christ and repents of their old life Jesus says, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Verse 7) The heavens will ring with joy that a person has seen fit to turn from their old life of sin and repented to walk the life in Christ.
Seeing With Your Eyes
Which takes me back to the starting point. These Pharisees for all their education and learning completely missed the point. Asking why Jesus ate with sinners when his purpose was to call sinners was kind of a dumb question. If you want to find a new dress do you go to a hardware store? If you want advice concerning a health problem, do you go to an engineer? No of course not.
And if you want to call sinners do you go to those who are righteous? No you go and talk to and interact with sinners. You go to the places where sinners “hang out” so you can find them and speak to them, which is exactly what Jesus did. Had the scribes and Pharisees recognised who Jesus was and what his purpose was they would have understood this and been able to see with their eyes.
There is more to say about this matter which will be covered in the next few posts.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by hislightrq)