Taking It To The Streets
Many of us have made a commitment to follow Jesus and to model our lives after the life He led but did that mean eating with sinners too? This being the case, how do we deal with the fact that Jesus both ate with sinners and drank with sinners? He hung out with people who were less than reputable. Take a look at Mark 2:13-17 and you will see that what Jesus was modeling there is not what is normally taught from our pulpits today. In fact most Bible believing Christians would react more like the scribes and Pharisees than they would react like Jesus.
JESUS CALLS LEVI
13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum? ” 17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
What Did Jesus Model By Eating With Sinners
Jesus Finds Matthew
We see that Matthew was not looking for Jesus, but instead was working in his tax office. Now let me try to put this in such a way that our modern minds will understand how controversial it was for Jesus to do this. Matthew was the modern equivalent of an IRS auditor. He was the guy that decided how much taxes you have to pay. Not only that but he was representing a government that was an occupying force. It was if He was an American who betrayed his countrymen by representing a foreign occupying government. He was considered the low of the low. Jesus specifically went to him.If we are to reach our world for Jesus, we are going to have to get beyond our comfort zones and meet people where they are at, not demand or expect them to come to us.
Jesus Challenges Matthew to Follow Him
Notice that Jesus didn’t say to follow His new church, nor did he say to follow a new teaching or even one of the old teachings or religions. He did not try to manipulate Matthew, or trick him in any way, but instead challenged him to start to live a different way of life. The Christian lifestyle is not about following a church or a denomination but about adopting a lifestyle that tries to emulate the way that Jesus lived, and the character that Jesus had. We are not here to get people to follow our church or a denomination like the Vineyard that I am part of. We are here to challenge people to follow Jesus alone. I am fully aware of the fact that not all people will fit within a certain denomination or church because of the unique and creative way that God has made them. But I do believe that there is a place for them to fit in the larger scope of the body of Christ. So my goal is not to make them a convert to my church or denomination but a convert to the concept of following Jesus.
Jesus establishes a relationship with Matthew and his friends
Notice that Jesus was just taking an interest in Matthew’s life. He was eating with sinners who were the friends of Matthew. To me this is extremely important. It shows that Jesus was not just interested in making a convert. He was not just adding another number to his disciples. He truly wanted to be a part of Matthew’s life. He was on a mission to influence that life and the lives that revolved around Matthew in a positive way. It becomes obvious that Jesus was thinking differently than most of us do. You can see this by the fact that Jesus knew that there would be those that would judge him for who He hung out with. It was common in those days to think that if you were eating with sinners then you must be a sinner too. That is not too far off from what many people think today is it? Jesus knew that He was setting a new precedent. Nobody chose to hang out with an IRS agent and a traitor in those days. Jesus knew the reputation of Matthew and the fact that people would question why he would eating with sinners. However if I can take a line from one of my favorite Star Trek movies, Jesus knew that “the needs of the many was greater than the needs of the few”. He modeled and demonstrated that the needs of the sinners were more important than the needs of those that considered themselves righteous. Jesus made a choice based on that principle. If we are going to be like Jesus and follow Him, then we are going to have to be purposefully missional. That means that we are going to have to purposefully keep in mind and act upon our mission. Jesus stated that His mission was to call sinners to repentance. (to change direction.) If we are to follow Him and His example then we are going to have to get beyond our Christian comfort zone.
Are You Willing To Follow Jesus By Eating With Sinners?
We are going to have to make it a point to meet new people and people who may not be liked or have the greatest of reputations. Instead of hanging out in our nice little clichés and comfortable Christian events and programs we are going to have to actually choose to start eating with sinners. If I can be a little blunt, that means you are going to have to plug your noses and your ears, and get rid of your grimaces and eat with smokers, drinkers, and those that have potty mouths. We are going to have to accept them into our lives and accept going into their lives. We are going to have to truly care about them and about those around them. Jesus went to dinner at Matthew’s house. He ate and drank with Matthew’s friends. He accepted the scorn and ridicule of the religious because it was more important to make a difference in these people’s life. He said that He came to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, deliver the captives and tell of the season of God’s favor. He was on a mission! We also, are going to need to remember that we are on a mission. We are there not to make converts to a church or to a religion or teaching but introduce them to our best friend Jesus Christ.
Still want to be a follower of Jesus? Do you still want to model yourself after Him? Are you willing to start eating with sinners?
Now that is something to think about!