by Dorette Saunders
Jesus is often referred to as “a friend of sinners.” Perhaps that is not the title we would use as we think about our Lord. Yet, it is a very apt moniker for a rabbi who broke the social norms of his day to show the oppressed and those ostracized by society what love and grace love truly look like.
Luke recounts a scene (15:1-10) where Jesus is accosted by the scribes and Pharisees for his overly friendly behavior toward “those people.” You know them, the ones that don’t fit. The ones that elicit gossip at the mention of their names. In Jesus day, it was the tax collectors and others of ill repute—sinners! Aren’t we glad we are not like them…but wait, we are like them. In fact, for some of us who have not yet found Jesus, we are them. Here’s what Jesus’ religious church leaders said grumbling:
“This man is friendly with sinners. He even eats with them” (v.2, CEV).
Do you detect the disdain in their tone? Yet, by their very words, the scribes and Pharisees were highlighting the reason Jesus came to earth. He came to rescue sinners; to show them love; to fellowship with them and season the time he spent with them, with grace.
Jesus came to forge a relationship with us, not to bring us a religion. Jesus comes to us right where we are. While the rest of the world tells us that we’re nobody, Jesus is saying you’re important enough for me to sit down and eat with you and offer grace. Not the kind that says thanks for the food, but the kind that sees beyond our faults, and chooses to love us anyway.
Sometimes in our reading of the Scriptures it is helpful to pause and inject ourselves in the narrative. Where do we see ourselves? Are we people who believe that those whose sins are conspicuous are not deserving of God’s love? Or are we those who, recognizing our own sin, seek out Jesus because his love is so overwhelming, so unconditional, and so uncondemning that we long to know him in a more personal way?
In this passage of Scripture Jesus tells a parable about people who having lost something precious to them, rejoice heartily when they find it. And, lest we miss its meaning, Jesus tells us that “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over 99 good people who don't need to” (v.7).
Imagine heaven being happier than it already is! All because someone came to know Jesus as Savior. It’s more than a good reason to share the gospel.
The Bible tells us that grace is greater than our sin. And we are reminded that sin separates us from the love of God. We are lost without God. And it is Jesus who is the way back to God the Father. Jesus tells us: “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” …. “Without me, no one can go to the Father” (John 14:6, CEV).
He also tells us:
“The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost” (Luke 19:10, CEV).
As we take time to examine the Scriptures and the words of Jesus, we find that God’s grace is indeed sufficient for our needs (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus continues to give us a loving invitation to allow him to be Lord of our lives, to show us grace no matter where we fall on life’s spectrum. He gives us a personal “God-with-us” moment, a moment of grace beyond anything we will ever experience. How will you respond?
PRAYER: Lord, your grace is certainly sufficient for all our need. Thank you for being a “friend of sinners.” We bless your name that we are saved by grace. Teach us not to squander so divine a gift, but to accept it humbly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.