1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1–2, NKJV)
Yes, Jesus ate with sinners (including Pharisees, Luke 7:36-50). On this occasion, the Pharisees and scribes charged Jesus with giving credence to sin by being with sinners. With a contemporary twist on this worn out accusation, people today say that since “Jesus ate with sinners” we should have no problem doing so. They fail to see why the tax collectors and sinners drew close to Jesus. They came to listen to the teaching of Jesus (verse 1)! It is not uncommon for worldly people to try to draw Christians into compromising situations by saying, “Jesus ate with sinners – why won’t you?” When you offer Christ’s teachings as your topic of conversation with them, they refuse. Why? Because that is not what they want. They are not like the sinners with whom Jesus ate. Instead, they want you to accept them in their sin (or at least, they want you to say nothing about it to them). If you agree to such a silent, social interchange you weaken your godly influence and give the worldly person an opportunity to claim your approval, merely because you ate with them. When Jesus ate with sinners He talked with them about their souls, repentance and salvation (Lk. 15:3-7). That should be our topic of conversation with sinners, too.
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:16–17, NKJV)
We hear people telling us we should accept and befriend those who live in immorality, because after all, “Jesus ate with sinners.” Yes, He did. But, the question that needs to answered is, “Why did Jesus eat with sinners?” Was it to condone, tolerate, and even commend them in their sins? Today’s verse explains why He ate with them. If people would accept His explanation, they would stop claiming Jesus was tolerant of sinful diversity. The people Jesus ate with were sin sick. Eating with them was the Great Physician’s opportunity to call them to repentance and salvation. He was not “accepting them as they were.” Jesus was not opening the door to immorality without repentance and conversion. Without a doubt, Jesus loves sinners. He showed that love by teaching them God’s truth about sin and God’s mercy. He called them to repentance. He did not comfort them in their sin. When we teach a sinner the truth about his sin, and call him to repent and be saved, we are loving him the way Jesus loved sinners. That’s why Jesus ate with sinners. Is that why you eat with sinners?