Jesus: Friend of Sinners & Offender of the Religious

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written by the beloved physician Luke, More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters fifteen through seventeen of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find what is perhaps one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture—namely, the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter. As you draw near and approach the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will encounter and come face to face with yet another example found within the gospel narratives concerning Jesus entertaining publicans and sinners. The more you read the four gospel narratives the more you will find a Jesus who was not only unafraid and unashamed to offend the religious by healing on the sabbath, but so also will you find a Jesus who is absolutely unafraid to entertain publicans and sinners. What’s more, is that not only was Jesus unafraid entertain publicans and sinners, but Jesus was unafraid to be seen with them during His years of public ministry. You cannot read the gospel narratives and not encounter and come to terms with the fact that Jesus had absolutely no quarrels nor any qualms with being seen with publicans and sinners—a reality which is especially seen in the fact that He would call a publican unto Himself as one of His disciples who would walk with and follow Him. The gospel narratives paint a very clear picture that Jesus was willing to entertain publicans and sinners, and that Jesus was willing to eat, and drink and fellowship with them. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not come face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth that not only did Jesus come to seek and save those who were lost, but Jesus came for the publicans and sinners as much as He came for those who felt and believed as though their lives were altogether. PUBLICANS, SINNERS, ADULTERERS AND PROSTITUTES ALIKE! What’s more, is when you read the gospel narratives you will find the publicans and sinners at the center of an offense the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of Israel, and the Pharisees had with Jesus the Christ, for they could not accept, nor could they believe that Jesus would and could entertain such individuals.

            As I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the tremendous truth that surrounds Jesus’ willingness to entertain publicans and sinners the more I can’t help but feel compelled to bring you face to face with the various passages in Scripture when Jesus willingly, deliberately, and intentionally ate, drank and partook in fellowship with the publicans and sinners. What’s more, is that if you read the gospel narrative of His life and ministry as was written by the beloved physician Luke you will find that not only would Jesus enter into the home of a publican and sinner, but there are at least two examples of Jesus entering into the home of Pharisees—including one in which Jesus would enter into the home of one of the chief among the Pharisees. It’s quite intriguing and astonishing to read the gospel narratives and discover that just as much as Jesus was willing to enter into the houses of two publicans—Matthew whom He would call to walk with and follow Him as a disciple, as well as Zacchaeus who was chief among the publicans—so also was Jesus willing to enter into the homes of two Pharisees. It is quite remarkable to read the four gospel narratives and to find that while it was true that Jesus entered into the home of Matthew who was also known as Levi the son of Alphaeus and Zacchaeus, so also was Jesus willing to enter into the homes of Simon the Pharisees, as well as one of the chief among the Pharisees. Please do not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible truth, for there is something worth noting and pointing out about a Jesus who was willing to not only enter into the homes of publicans, but He was willing to enter into the home of the chief of the publicans. Not only this, but if you read the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find that Jesus entered into the home of Simon the Pharisee, as well as the home of one of the chief Pharisees.

            Please do not miss the awesome and incredible truth surrounding these encounters within the homes of publicans and Pharisees alike, for as much as the scribes, as much as the chief priests, as much as the elders of Israel and the Pharisees were offended with Jesus’ willingness to eat and drink with sinners, so also was Jesus willing to eat and drink with Pharisees. Pause for a moment and think about this Jesus who we read about in the four gospel narratives and consider how Jesus would enter into the home of a Pharisee just as much and just as well as He would enter into the home of a publican. Jesus would not treat the home of a Pharisee any different than a home of a publican, and vice versa. Jesus would enter into the home of a Pharisee to engage in fellowship and the breaking of bread as much as He would enter into the home of a publican to break bread. In fact, it would be in the home of one of the chief among the Pharisees that Jesus would enter in to break bread. BREAKING BREAD WITH PHARISEES! BREAKING BREAD WITH RELIGION! BREAKING BREAD WITH LEGALISM! BREAKING BREAD WITH HYPOCRISY! BREAKING BREAD IN THE HOUSE OF RELIGION! Oh how much I absolutely love reading the gospel narratives and considering how Jesus was willing to enter into the home of Pharisees as much as He was willing to enter into the home of publicans. Not only so, but Jesus would enter into these homes to break bread as a sign of fellowship, as a sign of friendship, as a sign of communion, and as a sign of a willingness to engage in relationship with them. It would be one thing to read the four gospel narratives and to consider how Jesus entered into the homes of publicans alike, however, it would be something else altogether and entirely different to read the gospel narratives and to also see and consider how Jesus was willing to enter into the homes of Pharisees. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that Jesus the Christ was more than willing to be seen eating and drinking with publicans and sinners just as much as He was willing to be seen eating and drinking with Pharisees. Not only this, but Jesus was willing to go to where the publicans and sinners were as much as He was willing to go to where the Pharisees were.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the awesome and powerful concept that the gospels are replete with examples of Jesus being willing to enter into the homes of publicans and sinners that He might break bread, that He might eat and drink, and that He might have fellowship with them. This would be seen as early as His calling of Matthew who sat at the receipt of custom, as well as Zacchaeus who upon hearing that Jesus was passing by that way would climb up into a sycamore tree that he might see and behold Jesus, for Scripture describes him as being of little stature or shorter in height. Scripture records and reveals how upon seeing this publican and tax collector in the tree Jesus would not only call him forth and call him down from the tree, but He would also declare unto him that he must needs eat and drink within his house. If there is one thing I absolutely love about the four gospel narratives found within the New Testament it’s that they are filled with powerful examples of a Jesus who was not only willing to speak with publicans and sinners—those who would have been marginalized, despised, and vilified during those days—but He was also willing to enter into the home of two of them that He might experience and engage in fellowship with them. I do not subscribe to coincidence—particularly and especially when it comes to the Scripture—and it is absolutely no coincidence that within the four gospel narratives we not only find Jesus entering into the home of a publican as well as the home of a Pharisee, but we also find Jesus entering into the home of the chief among the publicans, and the chief among the Pharisees. Stop for a moment and think about how absolutely captivating that truth and that reality is when you truly take the time to consider it. Think about the fact that Jesus would indeed enter into the home of a publican and into the home of a Pharisee, but Jesus would do so much more than that, as Jesus would enter into the homes of the chief publican, as well as the chief among the Pharisees.

            It is truly something worth noting and pointing out that if you follow this logic even further and take it outside the four gospel narratives and enter into the epistles which were written by the apostle Paul, you will find the apostle Paul referring to himself as the chief among the sinners because he persecuted the church. Pause for a moment and think about this absolutely astonishing truth, for within the four gospel narratives we find Jesus entering into the home of the chief among the publicans, we find Jesus entering into the home of one of the chief among the Pharisees, and within the epistles which were written by the apostle Paul you will find Jesus calling, choosing and converting one who considered himself chief among the sinners because he persecuted the church. You cannot read the New Testament and not encounter these three realities—the reality of the chief of the publicans, the reality of the chief of the Pharisees, and the reality of the chief among the sinners—and how Jesus was willing to engage in fellowship and communion with them. What makes these realities even more intriguing and even more astounding is when you think about the fact that when Jesus entered into the home of Matthew who was a publican it was after He had called him to walk with and follow Him. When Jesus entered into the home of Zacchaeus who was chief of the publicans he would find a repentant and humble Zacchaeus who was willing to undo all the wrong he had done, and who was willing to restore all the damage that had been committed by his hand. Not only this, but Jesus would emphatically declare unto Zacchaeus that on that particular day salvation would come unto and salvation would come into his house. Stop for a moment and think about that, for in the case of the apostle Matthew Jesus would call him to walk with and follow him, and it would be after he made the decision to walk with and follow Him Jesus would enter into his home. It would be there within the home of the apostle Matthew that many publicans and many sinners would enter in and sit down to eat and drink with Jesus. Jesus would enter into the home of Zacchaeus who was chief among the publicans, and it would be there in the house of Zacchaeus that salvation would come in response to his repentance and humility in the presence of Jesus the Christ.

            If we take this a step further and consider it in light of the apostle Paul we must needs recognize and understand that the apostle Paul considered himself to be chief among the sinners because He persecuted the church. The apostle Paul would refer to himself as chief among the sinners, and yet despite the fact that he viewed himself as chief among the sinners Jesus would appear to him as he was traveling and journeying along the road to Damascus with letters in his possession to bring any Christians he found in the city back to Jerusalem bound in chains to either be imprisoned, or beaten, or perhaps even put to death. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this reality and concept, for when it came to the chief among the publicans—salvation would come to his house. When it came to Matthew also called and known as Levi the son of Alphaeus—Jesus would call him to walk with and follow Him. When it came to Saul of Tarsus who would later become known as the apostle Paul Jesus would appear to him on the road to Damascus and would exercise His lordship and authority over him, and would bring about a powerful conversion within his heart and life. This Saul of Tarsus would ultimately become known as the apostle Paul who would be perhaps the single greatest witness of Christ unto the Gentiles, as he would set out on three distinct and three different missionary journeys as he would bring and preach the gospel unto and among the Gentiles. We dare not and must not miss this, for when you think about publicans, Pharisees and even sinners—it was the publican and the sinner who chose to walk with and follow Jesus. When you think about the chief among the publicans, chief among the Pharisees, and chief among the sinners—it was the chief of the publicans and the chief among the sinners who would find repentance, humility and salvation within their hearts and lives. Oh dear reader please do not quickly dismiss or glance over this, for there is something absolutely captivating and necessary for us to recognize and understand within our own hearts and lives.

            Upon taking this even further I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the awesome truth that of the chief of the publicans, of the chief among the Pharisees, and of the chief among the sinners—it was only the chief publicans, and the chief sinner who actually would find salvation and conversion in the sight and presence of the Lord. It is truly something worth noting that even though Jesus would enter into the home of the chief of the Pharisees, that Pharisee would neither find salvation, nor would they find deliverance, repentance, humility and forgiveness in the presence of Jesus. Even though Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God would enter into their home, and even though Jesus would break bread with them, they would not humble themselves in the sight and presence of the living and eternal God. Stop and think about this, for Jesus was willing to enter into your home, and Jesus was willing to break bread with you in your home—this despite the fact that you were not only a Pharisee, but also chief among the Pharisees—and yet there within your own home in the presence of Jesus you would not find salvation. It is absolutely astounding to think about and consider this reality, for it brings us face to face with the fundamental differences between the publicans and the Pharisees—and not only between the publicans and the Pharisees, but also between sinners and Pharisees. In fact, there is a parable Jesus spoke concerning a publican and a Pharisee, and how both would pray before and unto God the Father which was in heaven, and yet how only one would return unto their home justified before and in the sight of the living God. I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is this parable which helps serve as the backdrop and the foundation of the fundamental difference between the publicans and the Pharisees, as well as the fundamental differences between sinners and the Pharisees. It would be one thing to ask the question why the chief among the Pharisees would and could not experience salvation within their home—this despite the fact that Jesus was actually present in their home breaking bread, eating and drinking with them. In fact, it’s interesting and worth noting that in the house of Simon the Pharisee a woman of the city who was a sinner would find and face condemnation and accusation from religion, and it would be in the house of the chief among the Pharisees that many Pharisees and others would take offense to Jesus because He would heal one there in that home, and would do so on the Sabbath.

            Stop for a moment and think about the stark comparison and contrast between Jesus in the home of Matthew the publican, as well as Jesus in the home of Zacchaeus the chief of the publicans, and Jesus’  being in the home of Simon the Pharisee, as well as in the home of the chief among the Pharisees. Think about and consider the fact that Jesus would enter into the home of both Pharisee and publican alike, and yet the Pharisees would never find, nor would they encounter the salvation of God, nor would they experience that which Jesus was sent to the earth to fulfill and accomplish. This reality is even more true when you think about the fact that a certain rich young ruler would enter into the presence of Jesus asking what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and while he would indeed enter into the presence of Jesus inquiring and asking about eternal life, he would ultimately leave the presence of Jesus sorrowful and discouraged. It is something truly astonishing to think about the fact that Jesus would and could enter into the homes of two Pharisees, and yet in the one home it would be a sinner who would face the ire, the criticism, the cynicism, the condemnation, and the accusation of Simon the Pharisee, and it would be in the home of the chief Pharisee where Jesus Himself would be the target of the offense and the complaining of the Pharisees, for He would heal on the sabbath. Just as much as neither of these Pharisees—nor perhaps any of the other Pharisees which were present there among and within the presence of Jesus—would find salvation, nor eternal life as a result of fellowship with Jesus, so also would this rich young ruler not find and experience that which he was looking for. Oh it is and it was true this certain young ruler would enter into the presence of Jesus inquiring as to what he must do to inherit eternal life, and yet when Jesus actually described unto him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life he would leave and depart from His presence discouraged, sorrowful, and sad because he was a man of great wealth. Essentially, that which caused this rich young ruler to depart from the presence of Jesus sorrowful and discouraged was not only realizing how much he had, but also how much he had to  lose, and how much he had to give up in order to inherit eternal life, and to follow Jesus.

            It is with all of this in mind that I feel it is absolutely necessary to first and foremost call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus spoke concerning the publican and the Pharisee. Jesus would give a powerful and strong illustration and picture concerning the difference between a publican and a Pharisee, and how both would seek to pray before and unto God the Father who was in heaven, and yet how only one of them would walk away and return unto their home justified. I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is necessary for us to read and consider these words, for they help serve as the backdrop and the foundation for everything we will find and read within the gospel narratives—particularly and especially when we consider the words recorded by Luke in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel. In fact, I would dare say that we must needs first and foremost consider this illustration and picture Jesus would tell and would speak concerning the publican and the Pharisee, for it would be this illustration and picture that would help describe and explain why Jesus would and could enter into the homes of two publicans and sinners, and how they would find salvation and everlasting life in Jesus. Not only this, but Scripture makes it abundantly and perfectly clear that not only did the apostle Matthew and Zacchaeus experience salvation and everlasting life, but there were also many publicans and sinners who would eat and drink with Jesus, and who would walk with and follow Him. We must needs first consider this illustration Jesus would speak concerning the publican and the Pharisee, and then consider the accounts of the rich young ruler who would enter into the presence of Jesus inquiring and asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. It is after we consider the narrative and account of the rich young ruler we must then turn and direct our attention to Jesus’ entering into the home of Simon the Pharisee—who also coincidentally was a leper—as well as Jesus’ entering into the home of one of the chief among the Pharisees, and see what would take place within the house of religion. Once we have delved into each of these narratives concerning Jesus’ eating and drinking within the home of two Pharisees who dared invite Him in, we will then turn and direct our attention to the words which are found in the gospels concerning Jesus’ eating and drinking with publicans and sinners.

            If you want to truly understand the strong and stark comparison between publicans and Pharisees, and between scribes and sinners alike you must needs understand and recognize the words which Jesus spoke concerning the publican and the Pharisee who would both pray before and unto God the Father who was in heaven. This particular illustration Jesus spoke concerning these two individuals—and only these two individuals, but also those whom these two individuals represented within that generation, as well as within our generation—helps us to truly understand and grasp the reality and concept of how Jesus could enter into the homes of publicans and bring salvation and everlasting life into them, and yet how Jesus could enter into the homes of Pharisees, and there in the midst of the home—not only would Jesus be accused once more of entertaining a sinner, but so also would Jesus be accused, condemned and criticized by Pharisees and scribes because of His healing on the sabbath day. It is with all of this in mind I now invite you to consider the following words which Jesus spoke to illustrate the strong and stark difference and contrast between the publican and the Pharisee—and not only between this particular publican and Pharisee, but also between all those throughout the generations of men whom these two would indeed and would in fact represent:

            “And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

            We must needs pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for within it is a strong and powerful contrast and comparison between two classes of people which were found within the culture, the society and generation in which Jesus walkd and was manifested within the earth. This parable which Jesus spoke is actually quite powerful and quite captivating when you take the time to think about and consider it, for as much as we would like to think that there weren’t different classes of people within the culture, the society and generation of Jesus the Christ, we must recognize that within those days and within that culture the publicans and sinners were separated and segregated into an entirely different class of people than were the scribes, the chief priests, the elders of Israel, the Pharisees, and even the Sadducees. What’s more, is that we could even say and declare that the Samaritans were themselves in their own class within and during that culture and society, for it was abhorred and frowned upon for Jews to associate or have any dealings with Samaritans. What’s more, is I would dare say that within those days there was also another group and class of people which Jesus would regularly and routinely interact with and be a part of—namely, the poor, the needy, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the crippled, the lepers, and the like. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter the truly remarkable reality that within and during the days of Jesus there were indeed and there were in fact different classes of people and different manifestations of caste that were found within those days. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was the religious class as was evidenced and manifested in the scribes, the chief priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the elders of Israel, the rulers of the synagogue, and even the teachers of the Law. We know that there was another class of people, which was in fact the publicans and sinners—those whom the scribes and the Pharisees regularly took offense to Jesus’ interaction with. We also know that those who were lepers were in their own class and group of people during those days, for not only were lepers unclean according to the Law of Moses, but they were undoubtedly vilified and marginalized during those days. We know that there was another class of the poor and the needy, as well as the blind, the deaf, the mute, the crippled, and the lame who walked during those days. Of course we know that there was also another class of people during those days—namely, the Samaritans whom Jews did not and would not have any dealings with. This is something we must needs pay close and careful attention to, for it is this concept of class and different groups of people that is found in this parable which Jesus spoke concerning two of these classes of people.

            This parable which Jesus spoke concerning the publican and the Pharisee is actually quite remarkable when and as you read it carefully, for not only will you see two of the greatest groups of people Jesus walked and talked with during those days, but you will also find within this parable the fundamental difference between these two classes of people and how they approached, how they viewed and how they interacted with the living God. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of what is found within this parable, for what we find here is not only a demonstration of two different classes and groups of people, but we also find two entirely different ways of approaching and viewing the living and eternal God. What we find within this parable is a wonderful and powerful demonstration and manifestation of these two different groups of people, and how each of these groups of people viewed, responded to and treated Christ entirely and altogether different than the other. One of these groups of people would continually and regularly exalt themselves in the sight of men, while the other group of people would never think of, nor would they dare make any attempt to exalt themselves in the sight and presence of the Lord. It was within this parable Jesus presented us with a strong and powerful contrast between these two individuals—between these two classes and groups of people if you will—and how entirely and altogether differently they viewed themselves, and how they viewed the God of heaven and earth. Within this parable we find Jesus describing how the Pharisee stood up and prayed with himself declaring unto God how he was thankful that he was not as other men were—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, and the like. What’s more, is this Pharisee would also even criticize, condemn, accuse, and even judge the publican, for the Pharisee would go on to declare how he was thankful that he was not even like the publican who was there—perhaps in the synagogue, or perhaps even in the court(s) of the Temple. This Pharisee would stand and thank God for what he was not like, and what he had not done, and would then proceed to declare before and in the sight and presence of the Lord all that he had done—namely, how he fasted twice in the week and how he gave tithes of all that he possessed. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for the Pharisee would not only boast of his own righteousness, but in the process of boasting of his own righteousness he would also criticize, condemn, accuse, and even judge the publican who was there in that same instant and moment.

            The parable would go on to describe how the publican was not even willing to draw near or draw close, and how the publican stood afar off completely and utterly unwilling to lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven. This publican was perhaps afraid and ashamed to lift his eyes before and unto heaven, and would smite upon his breast crying out and saying unto the living God—“God be merciful to me a sinner.” Notice the vast difference between these two individuals—not only in the nature of their prayers, but also in the sheer length of their prayers. The prayer which the Pharisee would pray contained thirty-four words in its entirety, while the prayer of the publican was only seven words in length. Almost one fifth of the total amount of words used in the prayer of the Pharisee was the length of the prayer which the publican prayed, and when standing there afar off he would simply entreat and ask God to have mercy on him who was a sinner. The publican would not in the least bit boast of his merits, his works, his good deeds, nor even his righteousness, but would instead cry out for mercy. The publican felt and believed he had absolutely no merit to stand upon, and when seeking to pray before and unto the living God he would only speak of himself as a sinner, and would simply ask for mercy. This is something worth noting and pointing out, for more of ten than not lengthy prayers can be nothing more than a self-exaltation of ourselves before and in the sight of both God and men, and a means of parading our own righteousness in the hearing of God, as well as in the sight of men. We know that the Pharisee would not pray these words aloud, which indicates that neither the publican, nor anyone else who was there heard the words he spoke, nor was aware of the thoughts within this heart. The Pharisee would pray these words within himself before and unto the living God, and yet within his heart and mind—not only would he boast of his own righteousness, his own merits, and his own works, but so also would he judge, condemn, accuse and criticize the publican who stood there as well.

            Before I present you with the words which are found within the gospel narratives concerning the rich young ruler I find it absolutely necessary to expound upon this self-righteousness, this self-centeredness, and this self-exaltation of the Pharisees. What we must realize and recognize is that this wasn’t the only place within Scripture where this particular narrative is found, for if you journey to the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus delivered unto all those who gathered themselves unto Him to hear and listen to Him speak you will find Jesus describing the self-righteousness and self-exalting of the Pharisees who sought to parade their righteousness, their good deeds, their works, and their merits in both the sight of God and men. If you wish to understand the words which are found within this parable and the vast difference between the Pharisees and the publicans you need look no further than the words which are found in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. I would also argue that you need look no further than the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the same New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is within the sixth chapter we find Jesus speaking about the self-exaltation and showmanship of the Pharisees, while it is within the twenty-third chapter of that same book we find Jesus going on to further indict the scribes and the Pharisees for their self-righteousness, and for their hypocrisy. As we prepare to delve into the text concerning the rich young ruler I would first like to invite you to consider the words which are found in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew concerning that which Jesus would speak regarding the Pharisees:

            “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as thy hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).

            “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not yet after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called master: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greater among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But owe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater condemnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell then yourselves” (Matthew 23:1-15).

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are ilke unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:23-33).

            The words which are found written and recorded within these passages of Scripture present us with a powerful picture of the self-righteousness, the self-exaltation and the self-promotion of the scribes and the Pharisees, and how everything they did was for pretense and show in the sight of both God and men. The parable which Jesus spoke concerning the publican and the Pharisee clearly indicates a fundamental difference between these two individuals—and not only these two individuals, but also the groups of people they both represent. We must not miss and lose sight of what is found within this parable, nor allow it to get lost in translation, for it helps us to understand the narrative surrounding Jesus’ willingness to interact with both publicans and Pharisees alike. You cannot read the narrative of the gospels and not encounter the wonderful and powerful reality of Jesus being willing to eat and drink with publicans and Pharisees alike. Even with this being said, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the tremendous truth that although Jesus would enter into the homes of two Pharisees—one Pharisee by the name of Simon, and the other Pharisee whose name we do not know, but only that he was chief among the Pharisees—neither one would find and experience salvation in their home. In fact, as we will see in the narrative of Simon the Pharisee—although he personally would not find and experience salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and even peace, a sinner who dared enter into his house uninvited and perhaps without any type of welcome would. It’s something worth noting that salvation would come into and be manifested within the house of Zacchaeus who was chief of the publicans in response to his humility and repentance, while within the house of the chief of the Pharisees there would be nothing but condemnation, judgment and accusation. Not only this, but there would also be offense found within the house of the chief Pharisee as Jesus would not only break bread in the house of the sabbath, but Jesus would also deliberately and intentionally choose to heal a man who was in need within this house on the sabbath. It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the narrative of the rich young ruler to see and discover how it is possible to enter into the presence of Jesus and not only not experience salvation and everlasting life, but also to leave the presence of the eternal Son of God discouraged, sorrowful and sad. Consider if you will the following words which are found written concerning this rich young ruler who came and entered into the presence of Jesus:

            “And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

            “And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:18-25).

            The narrative we find within these passages of Scripture bring us face to face with the strong reality that it is possible to enter into the presence of Jesus—and even enter into the presence of Jesus asking and inquiring about eternal life—and yet leaving the presence of Jesus sorrowful, discouraged and sad. The words which we find in these passages of Scripture confront us with the truth that although there might be those who initially enter into the presence of Jesus inquiring about eternal life, they leave His presence discouraged and sorrowful because they realize what they have to give up in order to experience it. The rich young ruler was increasingly and incredibly sorrowful and discouraged because he realized that in order to have eternal life it would require of and from him more than what he was willing to give. This rich young ruler had much possessions and great wealth, and yet Jesus would invite him to sell all he had, distribute to the poor, and then would he have treasure in heaven. Not only this, but Jesus would also invite him to come and follow him after he had sold everything he had, and after he had given everything to the poor. Oh that we would recognize and understand the powerful truth that is found within this narrative concerning the rich young ruler, for the rich young ruler would enter into the presence of Jesus seeking to lay hold of eternal and everlasting life, and yet when he heard, when he realized, and when he recognized what he would have to give up that he might actually step into and inherit that eternal life he would leave the presence of Jesus sorrowful. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find here is indeed a powerful backdrop that helps us understand that which would have held and that which would have kept back the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the elders of Israel from entering into eternal life, as well as the kingdom of heaven. We must remember and recognize that when indicting the Pharisees Jesus would declare how the scribes and Pharisees not only refused to enter into the kingdom of heaven themselves, but so also did they shut up the kingdom of heaven from others within that generation. Because they themselves would not go on they would prohibit the prostitutes, the publicans, the sinners, the poor, the needy, and all those which were present during those days and within that generation from entering into the kingdom of heaven. The question I have to ask is how many within those days and how many within that generation would the scribes and the Pharisees actually prevent from entering into the kingdom of heaven, and how many men and women during those days would the scribes and Pharisees actually prevent from experiencing the fulness of Jesus the Christ and that which He came to the earth to present and offer unto all those who would receive it? It is with these questions and these thoughts in mind I invite you to consider the narratives of Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee, as well as Jesus in the house of one of the chief Pharisees who would both invite Him into their homes to break bread:

            “And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven thee. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

            “And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you” (Luke 11:27-410>

            “And it came to pass, as HE went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched Him. And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer Him again to these things. And He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms: saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Then said He also to him that bad Him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou  makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And when one of them that sat at meat with Him heard these things, he said unto Him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I be bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Luke 14:1-24).

            It is within these passages of Scripture we find Jesus entering into the homes of three different Pharisees—Simon the Pharisee, the Pharisee who had bidden Him to come and dine with him, and the house of the Pharisee which He entered to eat bread on the sabbath day. The words and language that is contained within these are absolutely incredibly necessary to read and to consider, for the scribes and the Pharisees were incredibly quick to judge, to condemn and to criticize Jesus for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. The scribes and the Pharisees were incredibly quick to murmur, grumble and complain against Jesus the Christ because of His deliberate and intentional choosing to associate with publicans and sinners—and not only to associate with them, but to eat and drink with them. What I find so absolutely captivating about this is when you consider the fact that just as Jesus ate and drank with sinners and publicans, so also would He eat and drink with Pharisees. What’s more, is that just as Jesus would enter into the homes of publicans and sit down to meat with them, so also would Jesus enter into the homes of Pharisees and sit down to meat with them. This is something that must needs be carefully examined and considered, for what you find within the gospel narratives is Jesus being criticized for eating and drinking with sinners—and not only for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners, but as was the case of Simon the Pharisee, we find Jesus being accused, judged, condemned and criticized by Simon for allowing this woman who was a sinner to draw near unto Him, and to touch Him. It was one thing for Jesus to enter into the homes of publicans, it was one thing for Jesus to eat and drink with publicans and sinners, however, it was something else entirely and altogether different for Jesus to actually allow one who was a sinner to touch Him. It would be there in the house of Simon the Pharisee that this woman of the city who was a sinner would come and stand behind the Jesus

            It’s quite alarming to read and consider how Jesus would enter into the homes of three different Pharisees—one of which was one of the chief Pharisees—and in each of those homes there would be three different events that would take place. As you read the words found within these passages you will find in the house of Simon the Pharisee a woman of the city who was a sinner would enter into the home uninvited and without advanced warning or notice and would stand behind Jesus washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointing them with the costly ointment she had brought with her. This is incredibly important for us to recognize and understand, for it would be there in the house of the Pharisee that a sinner would not only humble herself at the feet of Jesus, but would also find forgiveness for sins, find peace for her soul, and would experience transformation within her heart, her soul and within her life. This would all take place in the house of religion—despite and regardless of the fact that Simon would accuse, condemn, criticize and judge her for being a sinner. How incredibly remarkable it is to think and consider the awesome and powerful reality that despite the fact that this woman would experience the ire, the scorn, the rejection, and even the cynicism and criticism of this Pharisee, she would still find peace and forgiveness within the house of religion. What’s more, is that if you read the narrative of Jesus entering into the house of one of the chief Pharisees you will find that the one among them in their midst who had the dropsy would be healed by Jesus in the house of religion and on the sabbath day. Pause for a moment and think about these awesome truths and how absolutely astounding and remarkable they are. Consider how a sinner would find peace and forgiveness in the house of a Pharisee—even though religion itself would scorn, ridicule, condemn, judge and criticize her. Consider how one who had the dropsy would be healed on the sabbath in the house of religion—this despite the murmuring, the grumbling and complaining of those who sat at meat together with Jesus. These realities must be carefully understood, for they bring us face to face with the fact that even in the house of religion Jesus would not only allow Himself to be approached and touched by a sinner, but so also would Jesus offer peace and forgiveness to this woman. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for what we find in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke are distinct parables Jesus spoke in the company and presence of publicans and sinners when they gathered themselves unto Him. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following passages which are found in the gospels concerning Jesus’ interaction with both publicans and sinners:

            “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed Him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).

            “But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11:16-19).

            “Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32).

            “…And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:15-17).

            “…Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you” (Luke 3:12-13).

            “…And Levi made Him a great feasts in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:29-32).

            “…And all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29-30).

            “And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? And to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:31-35).

            “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:1).

            “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they say it, they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be gust with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

            It is absolutely necessary that we read and pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture, for within them we find a Jesus who was unashamed and unafraid to be seen with those whom society disregarded, vilified, marginalized, despised and rejected. The more you read the four gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ the more you will be brought face to face with the fact that not only was He absolutely unafraid to offend the traditions, the rules, the regulations, and the thoughts of chief priests, the elders, the scribes and the Pharisees, but He was also unafraid to be seen with publicans and sinners. Jesus cared absolutely nothing about that which would offend religion, and cared absolutely nothing about that which would offend the traditions of religion during those days, as He would emphatically declare and proclaim that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth, for it is at the very heart of the gospels, and is the underlying current that runs through the parables we find in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke. It is with these parables Jesus emphatically declares and proclaims the awesome and incredible truth that not only did the Son of man come to seek and to save that which was lost, but so also does heaven rejoice over but one sinner who finds repentance within their heart and life. These parables aren’t merely about showing a distinction between publicans and sinners and the scribes and the Pharisees, but rather demonstrating the awesome need for repentance before the one true and living God. In fact, it would be within this gospel we also find the physician Luke describing and declaring how Jesus—when speaking concerning the Galilaeans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices—would declare that unless one repented they would not enter into the kingdom of heaven. That which we find within these parables must bring us face to face with the captivating truth that not only did Jesus come to seek and to save that which was lost, but also the tremendous need for repentance. These parables confront us with the search for that which was lost—and not only the search for that which was lost, but also the return of that which was lost. It’s worth noting that in the first two parables the underlying theme and current was centered upon that which was lost and finding what was lost, while the theme of the third parable was not so much finding that which was lost, but that which was lost coming and returning home.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I would like to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth concerning these parables, and how with these parables Jesus sought to demonstrate the awesome and powerful truth of that which was lost—and not only that which was lost, but also the search for that which was lost, and finding that which was lost. The first two parables concerning the lost sheep and the lost coin powerfully and wonderfully demonstrate the reality of that which was lost, and how that which was lost was diligently sought after that it might be found by the one who lost it. With this being said, the third parable—the one we know as the parable of the prodigal son—is one that is not necessarily centered around that which was lost and the search for what was lost, but rather that which was lost and the return of what was lost. In fact, if you read the final verse of the fifteenth chapter you will find the father speaking to the eldest son and declaring unto him that his brother was dead but was alive again—and not only was he dead and alive again, but he was also lost and now found. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about and consider it is when you consider how in the first two parables that which was lost was sought after by that one who had lost it, while in the third and final parable of this chapter the son who was lost would not necessarily be sought after and sought out by his father, but would himself come to his senses in the strange and foreign land, and would return unto his father’s home. Although there is absolutely no indication that the father went out looking for and searching for his son, we do know that the father waited and had a powerful and profound sense of expectation and anticipation for his son to return home unto him. WE know this because within the parable Jesus speaks of and declares how when the father saw the son still a long ways off he ran to him and embraced him—embraced him not as a slave, nor as a servant, but rather as a son. We must needs recognize and understand this wonderful and powerful reality, for when it comes to the parable of the prodigal son we find the father waiting in expectation for the son to return home, and when this son who was lost returned home, and when this son who was dead would return home, the father would embrace him, the father would clothe him, the father would put together a celebration and feast for him, and would welcome him back as a son. Oh how absolutely captivating and beautiful this is when you think about it from the perspective of publicans and sinners who would within these parables find a tremendous amount of hope and encouragement—not only that there was an open invitation to return to the Father, but also that the Father would seek out and search after them, and would welcome them unto Himself as sons and daughters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s