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.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: (Luke 15:1–3, NKJV).
Simply put, a parable is an illustration of divine truth. The illustration is taken from ordinary life events, from which the spiritual lesson is drawn. Greek dictionaries define a “parable” (parabole) as “a similitude…fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral)” (Strong’s, G3850). Understanding the parables depends on the condition of one’s heart. Jesus explained this in the parable of the soils, which He said is key to understanding the parables (Mark 4:13, 14-20). An open, honest heart receives its meaning, holds it fast, and bears good fruit (Luke 8:9-10, 15). Hard, closed hearts do not receive God’s word and fail to understand and apply the parables of the Lord (Matt. 13:10-22). In today’s passage, the scribes and Pharisees complained against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners. They distorted the truth of the matter. The sinners came to Jesus to hear Him teach. He did not endorse their sins; just the opposite. He taught them the way of God in truth to save them. Jesus answered His critics with three parables. God is compassionate toward sinners (Luke 15:4-7), God values each and every soul (Lk. 15:8-10), and God mercifully forgives sinners who repent and return to Him (Luke 15:11-24). Like the elder son, the complainers were ungrateful of their blessings and unmerciful toward sinners (Lk. 15:25-32). Powerful lessons for those who have “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9).
3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:3–7, NKJV)
Jesus taught the parable of the lost sheep in response to those who complained He “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:1-2). This slur was against Jesus and those who came to hear Him. The record shows Jesus was teaching these lost souls, not endorsing their sins. The parable illustrates the compassion of the Lord toward the lost. His work of teaching them the gospel was heaven’s work of seeking and saving the lost (Lk. 19:10). The parable also reflects heaven’s joy when one sinner who repents. We cannot escape the linkage of the sinner’s repentance to salvation. God is seeking the lost, and when the lost repent, they are “found” (saved). Instead of chastising Jesus for trying to save sinners, these complainers revealed themselves as ones who needed to repent; they needed saving, too. Like Jesus, compassion for the lost drives us to teach them the gospel, persuading souls to repent toward God and have faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32, NKJV)
Jesus did not have to look far to find people sick in sin, since every person He met was a sinner (Rom. 3:23). Jesus not only diagnoses sin and its corrupting nature, but as the Great Physician, He is also the remedy of this deadly malady. His death is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jno. 4:10). God, who is great in love, moved with mercy and sent His Son as the Savior of the world to seek and save the lost (1 Jno. 4:14; Matt. 18:11). The Great Physician calls sinners to be healed of sin. Similar to our physical doctors, Jesus has a prescription for sinners to follow to be healed of sin, namely, repentance (Lk. 5:32). We cannot “just believe” and be healed of our sins (Jno. 12:42-43). We must change our hearts – repent – and follow the will of God (Matt. 7:21-23). Christians must do more than diagnose the sin around us, we must also help sinners learn about the healing remedy for their lives – Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ, when believed and followed, heals the soul and equips us to live now and eternally (Rom. 1:16-17). We must do more than show sinners their sin. Like the Great Physician, we must also show sinners how to call on Jesus and be healed (Acts 2:21, 37-41).
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:11–13, NKJV)
Did Jesus condone sin by eating with sinners? No. A careful reading of today’s text shows Jesus knew these people were sinners, because He alluded to their need for a physician. Was He “judging” them? No. They were sinners – “sick” in sin. Far from condoning sin or “judging” people unjustly, Jesus showed mercy by calling sinners “to repentance” while eating with them (Luke 15:1-2). Those who complained against Jesus for doing so had no mercy in their hearts for sinners. Why? Because they did not see their own sin and their own need for mercy. All have sinned, but not all sinners see their sin and how much they need mercy. These self-righteous complainers had no compassion toward sinners because they refused to deal honestly with their own sin (Luke 18:9-14). We learn to be merciful toward others by learning we need mercy, too. Mercy does not ignore sin, it calls on sinners to face their sin and to repent. That is what Jesus did. The Pharisee offers his sacrifices to God, yet forgets to be merciful (Matthew 23:23-24). And, he complains against those who shows God’s mercy to sinners. What a dreadful place to be!
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10, NKJV)
The godly must have clear eyes to see when sinners are enticing them to do evil. Under the guise of what is good and beneficial, the innocent and the gullible are deceived into following sinners into all sorts of destructive behavior. Just as the serpent deceived Eve, our minds can be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Deception and lies are the hallmark of the devil and his cohorts (see John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Many loving parents have warned their children against following the path of sinners (Proverbs 1:15-19). Such instruction, when followed, beautifies one’s life with grace (Proverbs 1:8-9). But, to refuse such warnings to resist and turn away from evil people and their enticements is foolish indeed (Proverbs 1:20-27). When a parent, a friend or a fellow Christian warns you of spiritual danger, accept their counsel and follow the wisdom of divine truth. God’s word turns you away from lusts while urging you to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Do not be enticed by sinners. Instead, flee sin and expose it for the evil that it is (Ephesians 5:11).
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.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8, NKJV)
Without strength. Ungodly. Sinners. Such was our spiritual condition when Christ died for us. We are impotent to save ourselves from our sins. Ungodliness is powerless to cleanse the ungodly. Sinners are incapable of freeing themselves from the bondage of sin. We were neither righteous nor good when Christ died for us. That Christ died for us cannot be attributed to our own righteousness or goodness. It can only be ascribed to the great and matchless love of God. The defining trait of God’s love is that He sent His Son to die for us when we were His unloving, unlovable enemies (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The depth of God’s love for us compels us to love one another, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Love is not merely stated, it is demonstrated. God has shown us true love. Now, let us go and love as He has loved us.
23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” (Romans 3:23–25, NKJV)
The reality of sin in our lives makes it impossible for us to ever earn our way to heaven. God, out of His great love for us, provides sinners (us) with redemption from sin in Christ Jesus. His grace, freely given, justifies through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since not everyone is saved (Jesus said few find the way to life, Matthew 7:14), it necessarily follows that sinners have a responsibility to respond to the gospel call to be saved in His Son. God’s grace is available to sinners in the blood of Jesus Christ, by which God’s wrath against sin is appeased (that’s propitiation). Redemption by the blood of Christ (His death) is obtained when we are “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). The action of faith that brings the sinner into contact with the atoning blood of Jesus, is baptism. We need God’s grace to be justified from our sins. Without grace, we are lost. Grace is available to all, and is received by those who “fear God, and keep His commandments” (Acts 10:34-35). Thank God, that He has revealed His plan to redeem us in His Son.
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?
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15, NKJV)
From heads of state to lowly peasants, pleas for peace are heard around the world. God, in the gospel of Christ, has sent the world a message of real and lasting peace; a peace that is formed between God and sinners. Peace requires at least two things. First, removal of the adversarial conflict must occur. The fighting must end. Paul draws from the prophet Nahum, who saw the feet of the messenger who announced that God was about to remove brutal Assyria from the scene; God judged and destroyed the adversary (Nahum 1:12-15). Even so, sin has put us at war with God. The oppressive yoke of sin must be broken in order for peace with God to exist. The enemy of sin was defeated at the cross of Jesus. Secondly, sin’s conflict must be replaced with the tranquility of divine fellowship. Even so, Paul calls upon Isaiah 52:7, as Isaiah spoke of the beautiful feet that proclaim salvation to Zion, because, “Your God reigns.” The gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, replacing alienation with peaceful harmony between God and those who are saved in the Son. What beautiful news of peace we proclaim!