“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they said, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'” (Matthew 11:19)
Isn’t it interesting that the greatest compliment Jesus ever received was from His critics and accusers: “This man is a friend of sinners.” This is a clear and unmistakable description of the kind of person Jesus is. Notice that I said “is,”,not “was,” for this is forever true. Let this wonderful truth be proclaimed with great thanksgiving during this season of Lent.
The New Testament, which gives us the record of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, makes this abundantly clear. He did not go up to Jerusalem and spend the majority of His time with the religious leaders of His day. He did not even seek the crowds; the crowds sought Him! He did not build a huge tabernacle seating thousands of people, so He could preach to as many people as possible. No, just one person was a great audience to Jesus.
He did not turn a deaf ear to anyone who came to Him for help or healing. Although He had only three years for His ministry of preaching, teaching, and training His disciples, He was never too busy to respond to the feeblest cry for help. He never turned anyone away, even the most sinful. In fact, He preferred the company of those whose reputation made them despised, whose condition caused them to be considered unclean and lost, like tax collectors, adulterers, lepers, and beggars.
Of course, Jesus never saw such people that way. He never labeled them, for labeling is not loving. He only saw people who needed to know they mattered to God, who needed to experience God’s love and God’s forgiveness. Jesus saw beyond their faults to their needs, even accepting the invitation of some of the social outcasts of His day to eat with them, to visit their homes, to share table fellowship with them, which was the last straw for His enemies, those who considered themselves too righteous to associate with such people.
But Jesus said, “The Son of Man has not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance…It is not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”
Therefore, the Scribes and Pharisees bestowed on Him the nickname, “A friend of sinners.” Whoever you are, Jesus wants to be your friend.
What do you think Jesus sees when He looks at you?