Friend of Sinners
Text: Matthew 9:9-13 | Listen to Message
When’s the last time someone accused you of having serious character flaws because of the type of people you spend time with?
Jesus had to deal with this. The religious didn’t.
See, religious people avoid “sinners.” And, by “sinners,” they mean people who do the bad things on the naughty list. People who sin the sins they’d never think of sinning (and they’d never admit it if they did). The religious make two piles of people: “sinners” and us. They separate from sinners and condemn them.
On the other hand, Jesus gravitated toward sinners . . . and sinners gravitated toward him.
Because when people get sick enough, they tend to get really desperate – desperate enough to go see a physician.
The reality, of course, is that we’re all sinners. We’ve all broken God’s law. We’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. But only some of us admit it. Others are still pretending they’re doing just fine on their own, thank you.
Jesus didn’t waste much time on the self-righteous. He spent his time with people who knew they were sick with sin – and he did so for the same reason an oncologist spends much of his/her time with people who have cancer. Jesus wanted them to experience mercy and compassion. And Jesus wanted them to be made well.
In spite of false accusations to the contrary, Jesus didn’t hang with tax collectors and sinners to approve of, or join in, their sinful behaviors. He didn’t hang with sinners to look cool and relevant. He hung with sinners because those were the people who knew they needed to be saved!
If you’re a follower of Jesus, he wants you to befriend sinners, too. We know that from his charge: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’”
So let’s take a moment to do just that: let’s learn what this means.
“Sacrifice” refers to religious rituals that are performed for their own sake. In the vein of Matthew 23:23, “sacrifice” is an obsession with legalistic minutia to the neglect of weightier matters of the law, like justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
“Mercy” is love in action. It is compassion and kindness on behalf of the needy.
Mercy is what Jesus did. Sacrifice is what the scribes and Pharisees did.
Jesus is saying, “Stop it with your song and dance religious routine that has no room for broken people. Go and do mercy.”
Friends, we need to spend less time in comfortable relationships with people who don’t need a physician in order to spend time with those who do. We need to go to the desperately needy, and the desperately sinful, in order to introduce them to grace.
Get out of the saltshaker. Get out from under the bucket. Be the salt and light Christ empowers you to be. Let someone experience his mercy working through you today.