Summary: I want us to see Jesus - His attitude toward sin, and His attitude toward sinners. And in order to do that, let's look at 3 people and their encounters with Jesus. (Powerpoints available - #218)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this message are available at no charge. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #218.)
ILL. There is an old, old story about a pilgrim standing outside heaven, longing to enter in, watching as others were welcomed through the gates of pearl, onto the streets of gold.
As he stood there, he saw a group clothed in white robes & waving banners approaching the gates. He turned to the gatekeeper & asked, "Who are they?"
The gatekeeper answered, "Those are the prophets who prepared the way for the Christ who told of His coming & of the great joy that would be experienced at His birth." The man said, "Well, I'm not a prophet, so I cannot enter with them."
Soon he saw another procession coming. It was a smaller group, but a glorious one nevertheless. They, too, were clothed in white robes. Again he asked, "Who are they?"
"Why, they're the apostles who walked with Jesus - Peter & James & John & Andrew & Bartholomew & all the others. They're the ones who preached the Gospel, & established the church." The man said, "Well, I'm not an apostle, so I cannot enter with them, either."
But as he continued to watch there came yet another procession much larger than the first two. They, too, were clothed in white & carrying banners of victory. Once again he asked, "Who are they?"
"Why," said the gatekeeper, "Those are the missionaries & ministers who went into all the world with the gospel, inviting the lost & dying to come to Jesus." The man bowed his head & said, "I’m not one of them, either.”
But then he heard the sound of many footsteps in the distance, & when he looked up he saw a vast throng of people, more than any could possibly number. And what a motley mixture they appeared to be.
He didn't understand exactly how he knew, but these were obviously the rejects of the earth, the refuse of mankind, publicans & sinners & harlots.
He thought to himself, "Surely, the gates of heaven will not open for them." But to his amazement the gates swung wide open - & he heard the heavenly choir singing songs of joyous welcome. Dumfounded, he asked, "Who are they?"
The gatekeeper responded, "These are those who have sinned greatly, but who have been forgiven & saved through the grace of Almighty God."
The man leaped for joy & said, "I’m one of them. I can enter with them." And he, too, walked through the gates of pearl & received the welcome of the heavenly choir.
ILL. John Haddington of Scotland said, "I have been comforted for more than 20 years by the thought that Jesus welcomes, not only sensible sinners, but stupid ones as well."
A. I think that is exactly what is pictured in Matthew 9:10-13. Listen as I read: “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors & ‘sinners’ came & ate with Him & His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors & ‘sinners’?
“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go & learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
The Pharisees were quick to look at others & call them “sinners” & judge them to be unworthy. Their picture of God was of one who is harsh & unfeeling, concerned only about the strict observance of rules & regulations as taught by the Pharisees, a God who was eager to punish any disobedience.
But when Jesus came, he presented a God of love who is anxious to forgive & to lift the sinner up out of his sin - a God who welcomes to His banquet table the lame, the blind, & the outcasts of society.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not trying to paint a picture of Christ as one so soft-hearted that He never condemned sin. He saw sin as it really is with all its terribleness, its heartache & filthiness. Time & time again Jesus stood before sinners & said, “Go & sin no more!"
But at the same time He always had great love & compassion for them. He was never so blinded by their sin that He did not see whatever good that there was in them qualities that were worth saving & redeeming.
Let me remind you again of the question that the Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors & ‘sinners'?
Jesus knew what the Pharisees were asking, & He also knew their motive for asking it - they were looking for any opportunity to condemn Him in the eyes of the people who were eagerly coming to hear Him.