While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” -Matthew 9:10-13
It started at a dinner. Jesus was hanging out with Matthew and some other tax collectors. These people were seen as the lowest of the low among the people because the tax collectors were of their own nationality working for the oppressive government of the Roman Empire as tax collectors, often skimming their own personal profit off the top. Yet, here is Jesus, a man who is supposed to be the Son of God- the one who will save the world from the all evil, and He is reclined at the dinner table with these….these…..vermin……these……despicable people……these SINNERS!!!! The Pharisees had seen enough, after all they were the righteous men of God that upheld ALL of the laws and made sure that everyone else lived by them as well (please catch the sarcasm in that last statement- it should be dripping from your screen). The Pharisees approached His disciples questioning their Rabbi’s actions. What Jesus said next becomes the very definition of how our attitudes should be toward all people. If you aren’t careful, you will miss the absolute dagger precision jab Jesus plunges into the Pharisees. He doesn’t JUST tell them that He is here to heel the sick and save the lost- He tells them to “go and learn what this means.” Jesus obviously came with agenda, a guest list so to speak, of people (sinners) He was going to minister to. You see, what the Pharisees didn’t understand, what Jesus told them to go and figure out is, THEY WERE ON THE GUEST LIST OF SINNERS TOO.
My goodness how guilty are we of being just like these Pharisees? There is no two ways about it- God is Truth. The Bible, its teachings I believe to be the inerrant word of God, perfect in every sense. God is also Grace. God is a love that we can not fathom or imitate. God’s grace covers all, is available to all, and equaled by none. But even as God is truth and God is grace, we need to realized that God gave sinners Jesus first. Before disciples were made, before the world was saved- we had Jesus first! Christ was sent with a guest list of sinners that He wanted to hang out with, love, and make a difference in their lives. What we often miss is that WE ALL are on that guest list. Perhaps it is high time that the church- the body of Christ- steps back and returns to giving people what God gave them first- we need to give them Jesus first.
We need to understand that God’s grace is available to all. Every walk of life, every person regardless how we feel about them. This was a very hard concept for me. We are coming up on the 19th anniversary of the passing of my best friend. It took me years to understand that God’s grace is available to EVERYONE- even the man that is responsible for my friend’s death- not an easy pill to swallow; but it is absolutely the plan God had in mind when He gave us Jesus first. So, consider this a call to all Christians. Let’s start loving the way Christ loves. Let’s start giving them Jesus first- because without Jesus, people will not see a need for grace or truth. Before we change their habits, we must change their heart. Before we can destroy the idols in their lives, we must change their heart. Before we can change their choices, we must change their heart. Most importantly, before we can change their heart, we must give them Jesus first. Only a relationship with Jesus will truly change their hearts and allow us to fulfill our great commission of making disciples. And above all else- never lose sight of the fact that we ALL need Jesus. We are ALL sinners and we are ALL in this together. Let us never forget that we, too, are on the guest list.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach