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Why Does He Eat With Sinners?

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?” (Matthew 9:11)

Evidently Jesus hung out with a bad crowd.

We know that because the super-religious types found it offensive. One translation catches the flavor this way:

“Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (NLT)

There are many ways to answer that question . . . .

Because he loved them.
Because they knew he cared for them.
Because he knew they weren’t really scum.

And maybe this is the deepest reason . . .

Because the professional religionists wanted nothing to do with him. Prostitutes and tax collectors got along just fine with Jesus because he knew what they were and he loved them anyway. He enjoyed their company, laughed with them, listened to them, and made himself available to them.

As for the religious types, they viewed Jesus as a nuisance at best and as a threat at worst. Eventually they would conspire to put him to death. In the meantime they treated him with low-grade hostility. That’s why they peppered his disciples with questions and took every chance they had to trip him up. 

It’s not that Jesus didn’t love the Pharisees or wouldn’t spend time with them. It’s that they didn’t want to spend time with him. So he spent time with those who welcomed him. Jesus explained all this in terms that the Pharisees probably missed altogether:

“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).

If a man thinks he is healthy, he won’t go to the doctor even though he has a tumor growing on the inside. As long as he denies his problem, he won’t seek help even if it kills him. Jesus came to help those who know they need help. 

The first step in getting well is to admit you have a problem. That’s why Jesus hung around with the wrong crowd. He always gets along well with people who know they need him.

Purge from my heart, Gracious Lord, the tendency to keep you at arm’s length. May I not be ashamed of you or of the people you came to save. Amen. 

Going Deeper

Why do some people think they don’t need Jesus? Are you bothered by the kind of people who felt comfortable around our Lord? How much do you need Jesus in your life–a little or a lot? Why do religious people often have more trouble with that question than people who never go to church? 

 
Originally published March 01, 2013.

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