Jesus, Friend of Sinners
This past week I met with a few men in our local church and we discussed the following verse:
19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! (Matthew 11:19 NKJV)
These were words of accusation from the opponents of Christ. They were meant to discredit his character and ministry. It was an early church example of ‘cancel culture’. The mob was hungry and they sought to devour Jesus. And we know how the story goes, they eventually crucify Him on a tree.
They couldn’t desecrate His character and they couldn’t invalidate His message because Jesus was above reproach (see 1 Timothy 3:1 for the usage of the word ἀνεπίλημπτος )—He was blameless. Therefore, when slander did not work they arrested Him in the dead of night, gave Him a bogus trial, and murdered the Son of God.
Jesus, the only righteous man to ever live was murdered.
But as Christians, we know that God was up to something else. Just as God was up to something else when Joseph declared:
20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. (Genesis 50:20 NKJV)
God was up to good through the evil intentions of the mob. And this should be as encouraging to sinners today as it was to those sinners Christ befriended.
This verse helps us see what Christ was up to in his first advent. He was befriending sinners. And he wasn’t doing that to help their self-esteem. He was doing that because sin is cosmic treason against God and deserving of God’s eternal wrath. God’s wrath for sinners is what Christ suffered on the cross. That is what friendship with us cost Him.
Christ drew near to sinners. And He went through hell to do it. And this should comfort us. The way to have our sins forgiven is through Christ alone. Sinners aren’t to run from Him and clean themselves up, but run to him to be washed by His blood.
Jesus is a friend and eternally so. He befriended the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Therefore, there is no sin in your life that will end His friendship with you if you’ll only come to Him. His friendship with you isn’t because you’re such a great friend. It is because He is.