#DailyDevotion Jesus Sinners Will Receive
Luke 15All the tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to hear Him. 2But the Pharisees and the Bible scholars grumbled and said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to hear him. So, what’s up with that? Well first, who exactly were these people and why were tax collectors separated out from other sinners? Who were these Pharisees and Bible Scholars aka Scribes? Well tax collectors worked for the Roman government. They were often native to the places where they collected taxes. In other words they were Romans or native to Rome. So they were seen to be working for the enemy. Secondly, they amassed wealth by charging more in taxes than Rome demanded. Rome was fine with that as long as they got their cut. Sinners, while certainly including drunkards and prostitutes, were basically everyone who didn’t go to synagogue on Saturdays. Not necessarily wretched people but people like your neighbor who isn’t a Christian.
Well these people were coming to Jesus to hear him. Jesus welcomed them and ate with them. To welcome them and eat with them is to say you are in communion with them. Really, only until recently you wouldn’t eat with people who you didn’t agree with or like. But Jesus here by welcoming them and eating with them is taking on their guilt and shame. Pharisees were a group of people who separated themselves from Jews who were not observant of the Mosaic Law and the interpretations of that law by the elders before them. The Scribes or Bible Scholars were the interpreters of the Law and the tradition of the elders and how they were to apply it to their lives. Tax collectors and sinners obviously were not doing what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing. It is no wonder they marveled at Jesus welcoming these people and eating with them.
Now despite what modern liberalism of all stripes, secular or Christian, might try to make of this, Jesus didn’t tell them it’s ok for them to continue in their sins. Just look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus taught morality, a traditional, biblical morality. Jesus was calling to these people to repent. But what Jesus did was actually interact and accept these people as his disciples. The Pharisees and the Scribes may have allowed these people into the synagogue if they repented of their sins but they never would have accepted them as truly their brother and sister Israelites. They wouldn’t have allowed them to be their disciples.
When they heard Jesus’ teachings they repented of their sins and followed Jesus. Jesus accepted them as his disciples and continue to teach them. He accepted them as his brother and sister Israelites. Jesus did not say they could not follow him. He did not tell them their repentance wasn’t acceptable. But Jesus also didn’t say they could continue in their sins either. On the other hand, Jesus didn’t require them to follow the traditions of the elders either. The tradition of the elders sometimes added to the Torah aka the Law and sometimes it subtracted from it. Jesus taught they were to follow the Law as written and spiritually. Jesus gave the spiritual meaning of the Law in his sermons.
So, we as Christians should also be like Jesus. We need to make sure any Christian traditions we have which are helpful, but not necessary get in the way of people coming to Jesus. We shouldn’t make repentance any harder than Jesus does in his teaching. We should welcome people to hear Jesus’ teaching, repent of their sins and join us as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes we call them to repent of actual sins and to cease from them. But the guilt and shame of their past we let Jesus take upon himself. We rejoice they have left the darkness and joined us in the light. Perhaps you’re still on the outside thinking your sins separates you from God. The good news is, Jesus has removed that sin from you and has drawn you close to God in himself. So believe that, turn from your sins and come on in.
Merciful God and Father, you desire not that people die in their sins but repent of them and live in your love and light. Grant us faith to repent and live in Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.