Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

It’s Christmas time, and Jesus is front and center. For some of us, Jesus is the reason we celebrate. For others of us, Jesus is a part of the holiday that is foreign; Jesus belongs to some people but definitely not to me, we may feel. Jesus isn’t a part of our lives and he’s not someone we want to think much about.

We can go through Christ mas without knowing Jesus, pushing thoughts of him to the edges of the season. What is it about Jesus that causes some of us to look the other way? What is it about this God-Man who lived on earth for 33 years that prompts discomfort, that makes us freeze up inside even as we scurry about bundled against the winter chill?

Maybe it’s what we don’t understand about Jesus that keeps us frozen inside. Do we understand the reason God sent Jesus to earth? Do we get who it is that Jesus loves? He let himself be killed, but do we know why and who he did it for?

Let’s look at a few verses that give a picture of how Jesus spent his time on earth:

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:13-17

On this day, Jesus chose a guy who collected taxes and probably pocketed a good portion of these taxes for himself. Tax collectors weren’t considered morally upright people.  The dinner party also involved “sinners” who sat and ate with Jesus. They were probably non-Jews who ate and drank differently than the Jews, they may not have been believers in God, some may have committed crimes, and some were probably sexually permissive in their lifestyles. This bunch didn’t belong to the religious establishment of the day. They knew it  as well as the religious people around Jesus.

Yet, again and again we’re told that Jesus ate and spent time with these “sinners.”

Virtually every world religion except for Christianity is about following a  system to please a higher being. Christianity is about following a Person who is pleased to come close to us no matter how low or high we feel about ourselves or our life story. We don’t work to please the God of the Bible. We just let him come near and we accept what he did for us when he died. Jesus’ death paid for our sin. We don’t have to do anything else for God in order to be accepted.

Though a particular type of person was considered a “sinner” in Jesus’ day, the truth is that every person Jesus encountered was a sinner. Every one of us today is, too. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

If Christmas makes you feel like an outsider, like a sinner in the midst of a lot of people who are more qualified than you, remember that really, Christmas is a big dinner party with the one who loves most-of-all-you, a sinner. Just like he loves most-of-all-me, a sinner. Jesus is for you. You can think about him this month and you can feel a part of that crowd who seem so at home with this Christ. The more you feel you don’t belong, the more Jesus insists that you are just the one he reaches toward as you both walk in out of the cold together.

What about you? Have you ever realized that Jesus wants to hang out with you? Do you sense him inviting you now to come closer? Will you open yourself to his presence in your life?

Related posts:

Do You Know Jesus?
Jesus the People Person
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Couldn’t God Just Forgive?

[ Thank you to Flickr/cynicalview for the use of your photo!]

See these verses, too:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new`  has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

“We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians 5:20, The Message translation

 

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