“This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2, ESV).
What was intended as an insult was really a compliment: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).
Notice the words in the text. The word receive means to wait actively or expectantly. It is reminiscent of the way a mother longs to finally see her newborn child. Jesus welcomed those who were not otherwise welcome.
This was his custom. Both the words “receives” and “eats” are in the present tense. He has been receiving and eating with them and keeps on receiving and eating with them!
You could find Jesus just about anywhere – the home of Pharisees and tax collectors (like Matthew), the home of friends, walking in streets and by-ways. During festivals, you could certainly expect him in Jerusalem. You could find him in the fields and on farms. You could find him near the sea, on the sea, or in the mountains. You could find him among soldiers and scholars.
Jesus went everywhere because there are sinners everywhere. But he had a special place in his heart for those that proper society had given up on and labeled as “sinners.”
One of Jesus’ great struggles was not getting those who knew they were sinners to repent, but getting the self-righteous to see themselves as sinners. Some thought they were better than other segments of society – in effect, of more value to God.
What about us? Are we above others? Is the type of sinner I am more worthy of God’s gracious gospel than the type of sinner my neighbor is?
Are we interested in reaching everyone? Even those who need special and individual care? Are the drug addicted worthy of the gospel? Or are they too much maintenance? Are the imprisoned worthy of hearing the truth, or is it too much risk? Should we avoid public housing with the gospel because there isn’t much to expect financially from possible converts?
Jesus was willing to go anywhere, talk with anyone, but he felt most at home, not with the self-righteous, but sinners.
What about us?