A. To Challenge their Perceptions of God
(i) God is Love
(ii) God is merciful
(iii) God is gracious
B. To Challenge the Religious’ Perceptions of God
(i) God is Love
(ii) God is merciful
(iii) God is gracious
A. He ‘ate’ with Them
(i) Food is note just about nutrition
(ii) A meal is not just about eating
B. He Conversed with Them
(i) He spoke with and listened to
(ii) He asked questions of
A. Not all Sin is the Same
(i) The greater the sin, the greater the penalty
(ii) Sins of commission and omission
(iii) Leads to accountability and judgment
B. Visible and Invisible Sin
A. Jesus Knew Their Stories
(i) Stories of broken lives
(ii) Stories of deprived lives
(iii) Stories of rejected lives
B. Jesus Offered Them A Different Story
(i) Jesus gave them kindness
(ii) Jesus gave them God’s Word
(iii) Jesus gave them hope
C. Jesus Gave Them A New Identity
(i) Jesus redefined their identity
(ii) Jesus reminded them of the truth
(iii) Jesus repaired their souls
¶ Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”
When Jesus the Christ bid farewell to Nazareth, He was on a mission. There was no time to waste. He had just forty-two months to undo thousands and thousands of years of malicious treachery and damage in order to save the world from the deception of the Evil One and his sugar-coated lies about sin. The clock was ticking down. The Evil One knew that the Christ had entered into the realm of humans; But, he was smugly confident that there was nothing that the Incarnated One could do to break his death-grip over the gullible humans pawns whom he had been easily manipulating. After all, even the most powerful among the humans – Emperors, Kings, Governors, and Chief Priests – readily did his bidding. They carried out wars, invasions, executions, enslavement – all in the name of “peace” and “progress”. The Evil One, the Dragon, cared little what they called it—so long as it was an act of hatred toward the despised Eternal One.
These attacks against women and children by these puppet-rulers particularly delighted the Dragon – especially since he knew how much it hurt the Eternal One who dearly loved them. There were innocent casualties of course. But he didn’t care. Women who had been raped were shunned by their families; widows whose husbands had been executed were left in desperate poverty and often resorted to desperate means to support their fatherless families; young girls were taken by force to satisfy an urge of a passing soldier; and, if a baby should be born a girl … she would more than likely be immediately rejected by her parents and left exposed to the night elements or the wild animals who roamed the nearby forest. The occupation by the Romans acutely humiliated the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. They cried out day and night for the Eternal One to send the Promised One, the Messiah, the Christ, to rescue them. And now He was on His way from Nazareth to fulfil His mission. But it would be the ‘supposed’ enemy that He would deal with. It would be the true Enemy, the father of lies, that He confront. But first, He must go down into the Jordan waters.
¶ Then Jesus came from Galilee [Nazareth] to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
After being baptised, Jesus went directly to confront the Evil One face-to-face after He had fasted the entire forty-day trek into the wilderness. He was tired, hungry, and alone. The Evil One loved it when these pathetic earthlings made themselves even more vulnerable to his sugar-coated temptations.
¶ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But He answered, “It is written,“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee.
¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41
Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One.
¶ After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. ¶ And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
The Pharisees had started as a movement probably founded by Ezra. Ezra the priest had recognised that the reason they had been exiled to Babylon was because the previous generations of Jews had neglected the Law of God. He was determined that this should never happen again. His followers joined him in their devotion to the Law of God (“the Torah”) and some became the copiers of the Law, the scribes, and some became the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees. But over time they added laws to the Law to ensure that no-one broke the Law in much the same way as a fence is erected well before the edge of a dangerous cliff. However, the result was that the heart of the Law (summed up by Christ in just two commandments, which both include the word love – Matt. 22:37-40) was completely neglected. Instead being set free by the Law, they were being condemned by it. The Law, which Ezra the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119, was meant to be a good and life-giving guide had become an bearable burden of additional man-made laws that led to people more often than not feeling condemned, unclean, and unacceptable to God.
Jesus went to those most effected by this distortion of the Law of God – which ultimately was a distortion of who God really is. Tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers were each ostracised by society and often considered by religious leaders to beyond redemption. Little wonder then that they would have felt that God could not love them. But then, at a dinner with Jesus, they not only heard Christ explain to them that God did love them, they experienced the love of God through being with Jesus. Reading through the Gospels we might assume that everything Jesus taught, He only said once. This is almost certainly not the case. Thus, the the teachings of Christ recorded in the Gospels are almost certainly a concise summary of what Christ taught, including these truths about God, that He was loving, merciful (Matt. 9:13), and gracious –
Whoever has My commandments and keeps them,
he it is who loves Me.And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father,
and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
It wasn’t just the outcasts who needed to know who God really was and what He was really like, it was also the religious. Again, a reading of the Gospels might lead the reader to assume that Jesus had little time for the religious, but this was not the case. Not only did Jesus dine with the despised, He also dined with Pharisees. He often told parables at these dinner events which must have had a powerful effect upon many of the Pharisees because it revealed that God was loving, merciful, and gracious. There were even dinners that Jesus attended where people from these two groups (the outcasts and religious) intersected, such as the time when Christ was invited to the home of Simon that Pharisee and “a woman who was a sinner” entered. She obviously had already heard Jesus describing God as a loving, merciful, gracious heavenly Father and deeply, deeply touched to the core of her soul.
¶ One of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with Him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind Him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
¶ “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus was on a mission. His time was precious and it was running out. Not a minute could be wasted, and none was. This is why He ate with sinners. He modelled to His disciples that every person mattered. Eating food is not just about gaining nutrition. It is also about time with others. (This is why every family should have a regular dinner time at a dinner table without the distraction of a TV or their mobile phones.) A meal shared with others is not just about eating it’s also about sharing life, stories, highs-and-lows, and asking questions.
This is what Jesus did when He ate with sinners (both the outcast and the religious). We note in the Luke 7:36-48 account that Jesus listened, asked questions, spoke, and taught at the dinner He attended.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors
and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples.
And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Despite how some progressive Christians have reinvented Jesus in their own image, the actual Jesus did not accept people’s sin as their “identity” to be celebrated. He received sinners into His fellowship and always called them to repentance and to turn away from their sin (Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:3;Jn. 5:14; 8:11).
Jesus referred to some people as sinners (Matt. 11:19; 28:45; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32). He stated plainly why He spent so much time with them, especially over meals together –
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner
who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:7, 10
For Christ, every person was a sinner because every person is born a sinful nature; and, every person sins (Rom. 3:10, 23). Are their worse sinners? Yes (Mk. 3:29; Luke 7:47). It is not true that the sin of gossip is the same as the sin of murder or sexual perversion. Sin can be the result of either a deed done that break God’s commands, or, deeds not done that ignore God’s commands. The greatest sin a person can commit is to reject God and His offer of forgiveness through His Son (Matt. 12:31). All sin will incur the just judgment of God. God keeps a record of every person’s deeds and words, and even the intents of our hearts. This is why we know that sin can either be visible and obvious, or invisible and hidden from others. This is why our attitudes must also be surrendered to Christ (Matt. 5:22).
Society looked down at those they called sinners. These were the dirty people. They were unclean. But to Jesus, these were people – each one created in the image of God. Some were educated, Some were not. Some were wealthy. Some were not. Some were nice. Some were not. But each of them were broken. Many of them had been abused, and some had been corrupted. Even before they told Him their stories, He already knew it. The One who loves us best knows us most. Remarkably, Jesus offered each person a new chapter – a new story, one that would set them free from their past and the lie that they could never change or that their life could never become better. He taught them from God’s Word that God the Father had the power to transform all who turn to Him in humble repentance. He gave each one hope – a reason for a brighter and better future – and that reason was Him.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain
This message of the hope of a new life – a new identity – was not just for the outcast. The mission that Christ was on was for all people. This included the religious. His sharp rebukes of their heartless religion which was full of outward show was condemned by Christ (Matt. 23). While He did it passionate anger, it was also done with loving tenderness. Perhaps this was why on the Day of Pentecost, described in Acts 2, there were so many Pharisees who turned to Christ as their Saviour. They discovered on that day what the many outcasts with whom Jesus had dined had earlier discovered, that Jesus offered them a new identity. They went from being either an outcast sinner or religious sinner, to: a son or daughter of God.
The Dragon’s deception still attempts to destroy God’s image bearers today (Jn. 10:10). But Christ has made it a lot more difficult for him to do it as he once did. He no longer has the same kind of free rein over people as he once did. Christ has conquered him (Heb. 2:14; 1Jn. 3:8). When Christ ascended, He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit into our world to empower every believer to be able withstand the lures and temptations of the devil’s minions. Christ’s urgent mission to redeem the lost is now our urgent mission. Just as Christ did not affirm the deceptive and false identity that the Dragon tricked people into accepting — that their brokenness was who they were and they could never be anything different, in fact they should embrace their pain with pride! : “unclean”, “prostitute”, “orphan”, “worthless”, “leper”, “traitor”, “adulterer”, “fornicator” — we also proclaim the truth to those in our world who have been harmed by the sugar-coated deadly lies of their Enemy. Like Christ, we call all sinners to repentance. And like Christ we are prepared to do it over a meal, in their home, on their turf. Just as Christ could look a woman in the eye and declare her forgiven, we also announce that there is forgiveness in no-one other than Jesus the Christ. As Jesus did, we renounce the imposed and false identity labels that the Dragon tricked people into accepting. Instead, we announce that they have a true identity that God is prepared to reinstate to them – not because of what they’ve done or could ever do – but because of what Christ the Holy One has done for them. This announcement was so important that God sent His Son into the world He created to declare it. It was so important that the right people were to hear it, and to hear it well, that Jesus chose to share it directly with broken, hurting, lonely people in their own homes and across their own dinner tables. This is why Jesus ate with sinners. And this is why this sinner has accepted and embrace his God given identity rather than the Enemy’s old and false, ill-fitting, one.
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