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The sinful masses, whom we might expect Jesus to be turned off by, are instead the ones he seems to hang out with. He goes to their parties, and is even criticized for being a drunkard because he frequents them. And we would expect the sinners to be turned off by someone who talked about God so much, but instead they can’t stay away from him. They invite him to their homes and become his closest disciples. Those whom the religious aristocracy would have nothing to do with, are a part of Jesus’ inner circle. There are prostitutes and politicians, Roman soldiers and gentiles. Among his twelve disciples there is a revolutionary who is a part of a militia group. There is a tax collector who has betrayed his own people by working for the government which has occupied Israel. Two of the disciples were so hot tempered that he called them “Sons of Thunder.” One of his disciples was the devil incarnate. It was a ragtag bunch. Not a very impressive group by the world’s standards, and certainly not what we would have expected to see among those who were closest to the Son of God.
How do you explain the revulsion, and outright hostility of the religious people toward Jesus, and the attraction and tremendous following Jesus had among those who had serious moral and social problems? The gospels teach us many things about what it means to have a relationship with God. The first thing I learn from the gospels is: I become close to God, not when I become a good person, but when I become honest about myself. The Christian life is not a performance; it is a relationship. It is not about being good enough to be accepted by God. It is about being honest enough with yourself and God that you admit that you are not good enough, and will not ever be good enough, to earn God’s acceptance. You stop trying to be good enough and become honest about whom you really are.
I love the story of Jesus’ encounter with Peter. The Bible describes the scene this way: “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out
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