“A Friend Of Tax-Gatherers And Sinners”

The enemies of Jesus called Him a “friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Interestingly, He neither confirmed nor denied their charge, only pointed out their error in using this charge as a reason to reject Him and His teaching when they rejected John the Baptist and state the exact opposite reason. 

In this instance, we usually accept the opponents’ characterization of Jesus because, we know He was a friend of tax-gatherers. He made one of them one of the 12 and invited Himself to Zaccheus’ house. Clearly He was calling them to discipleship and away from the exploitations of the people that their position lent itself to. But His opponents still saw them just as vile traitors. 

In the case of sinners, we know He was likewise calling them from their dark deeds to one’s worthy of the fruit of light — but think of how His opponents viewed those people even after they were redeemed in Christ. In Luke 7:39, a Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” This is Jesus being a friend to a “sinner” — just ask the Pharisee. But from Jesus; perspective, He was being a friend to the forgiven and fulfilling His purpose of seeking and saving that which was lost. But that made no difference in the self-righteousness view of the Pharisee. 

If you count the sins of redeemed disciples against them, even after their repentance and redemption (like the Pharisee did), then I personally, at various times have been, or currently are, the friend of thieves, drug users, criminals of various sorts (including felons), as well as racists, fornicators, lesbians, porn addicts, those who aborted multiple children, the wayward, apostates, false religionists of every description, and of course, the run of mill foul-mouthed, drunk rodeo cowboys (I did grow up in Texas). That is not what my brethren are now, but it is what they were. (See 1 Cor. 6:9-11 for a description of the menagerie of former sinners that it is possible to gather in a single congregation.)

Praise be to God that He make all the redeemed to be a new creature in Christ, even if the opponents still just see sinners.