1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people...
...even eating with them!
I've always found this situation fascinating.
We know that Jesus was fully God – a part of the Trinity – making Him all powerful, all knowing, all loving, all holy, all everything.
And yet, we also know that He was fully man – iow, He experienced life here on earth just like any other man does.
So, this kind of a combination of personhood in someone must have presented some challenges for Jesus.
But even in the face of all of that, there was something about Him that even tax collectors & “other notorious sinners” wanted to be around Him.
Now, tax collectors were on the bottom run of society back then. They collaborated with the despised Roman conquerors. They were roundly hated by every level of Jewish society & culture.
I have often wondered what a “notorious sinner” would have been like – I mean, they lived in a world in which “anything goes” was the norm – kinda like today ;-)
And these people that most Jews considered to be “dregs of society” were drawn to Jesus.
They wanted to be around Him.
Evidently, wonder of wonders, Jesus enjoyed being around them, to the point that the Pharisees about it.
(The Pharisees were the mac-daddies of Jewish religion – uber-observers of the law.)
Jesus was so comfortable with them, & wanted to be with them so much that He even ate meals with them.
I wonder if the disciples did also?
You see, eating with such sinners would make you ceremonially unclean – not something you'd want to be classed as.
I've often wondered if we project a basic personality of love & mercy toward the epople we are around.
Of course, first of all, how many of us hang out with social outcasts & non-believers who are do bad that they have a reputation for being so?
We so careful to project our precious & prissy lives as special, holy, successful, & examples of everything good & pure in the world
We just don't allow ourselves to be around these kinds of people because we think that somehow they will taint us & undermine our reputation with the people we seek to authenticate us.
And we don't have to talk about how these notorious sinner view us – we are hardly viewed as someone these people want to be around, & make an effort to be with.
What can we do about all this?
Didn't Jesus tell us more than once that people will know that we are His followers by the quality of our love for others & the level of mercy we have for all of them.
But how may of us live like that?
So what do we do, practically speaking?
Maybe we should try to see people like Jesus does – people caught in a web of sin, the depths of which we simply can't imagine.
Maybe we should let God love them through us – this isn't as difficult as it sounds.
If we simply ask God to give us a love for His children, He will channel His love through us.
I can't explain how that works – it's supernatural – I only know that He does.
And maybe we should seek them out, making the effort to connect with them, & not treating them as just another notch on our belt, not just another “victory” to be won.
I know, I know... some of the people we're talking about here live pretty obnoxious, unpredictable, dysfunctional lives.
And people will probably wonder about us if they see us with people whose lives are more than a little sketchy.
But who cares what people think?
Jesus says more than once He hadn't come to gather up as many prissy & precious religious people.
Jesus came for the lost – you & me.
And how many of us would be followers of Jesus if the people who encouraged us to believe had communicated judgement, condemnation, unloving attitudes, & just a plethora of malaise toward people who aren't “like us”.
Let's open our hearts & lives to a few of the people we consider “notorious” & let's see what happens.