Summary: This is about the Hope for sinners.
Friendship holds a very special place in our lives. The knowledge that someone will be there through the best and especially through the worst times brings us comfort and happiness. Friends prove themselves when times get hard. I read a little joke about two men who were hunting in the woods. “Two men were out hunting in the northern U.S. Suddenly one yelled and the other looked up to see a grizzly charging them. The first started to frantically put on his tennis shoes and his friend anxiously asked, "What are you doing? Don’t you know you can’t outrun a grizzly bear?" "I don’t have to outrun a grizzly. I just have to outrun you!"” What a wonderful friend? So willing to sacrifice himself to save his buddy!
Some of us have been able to build these kinds of relationships. I know that I have at least a couple of people that I can absolutely trust with the deepest parts of my life. Sometimes they have no idea what I am even talking about but they will listen and love me no matter the problem or sin I am dealing with. The one thing I don’t often hear when I listen to people speak about Christianity is friendship. Right now, we are considering many different aspects of Jesus’ character and personality. Jesus is called the friend of sinners. Jesus is even called this in Luke 7:34 by the elite religious people of that day. They hated that Jesus Christ would spend his time and days with those of less religiosity than they had. He interacted with many people which may provide evidence of such a truth. Does Jesus really love and care for those of us who are imperfect? Is Jesus really a friend of sinners?
Tax Collectors: Struggling with personal finance (Luke 19)
These men were probably some of the most hated people in Jewish society. The Romans had conquered Israel and completely taken over their governing structure. They were hated severely but still needed to collect taxes and military recruits to continue their conquest and support their rule. So, instead of using their own people, they would get some greedy Jew to volunteer for the job. Beyond the fact that people felt they had been betrayed by the Jew turned Roman, these men only made money by taking it from the people. Many of them turned greedy and would charge two or three times what they were required to collect. They became rich while others lived penniless. They became engrossed in getting more money and living a lavish lifestyle. You’ll find one these stories in Luke 19. This is the story of a man name Zaccheus.
Zaccheus was a wee little man who wanted to get a look at Jesus. He was the tax collector in the area around Jericho on the far western side of Israel. “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Examine the attitude of Jesus in comparison to the Pharisees around him. Jesus spoke to Zaccheus with kindness and caring but the Pharisees speak of him negatively and hatefully. Money seems to be one of the most divisive and problematic of mankind’s troubles. Men and women struggled with it 2,000 years ago and still struggle with it each and every day. Some, just like Zaccheus, have an unnatural desire and love of money. “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evils.” Zaccheus definitely fit the bill when it comes to someone who loves money and yet Jesus loves him and treats him kindly.
Prostitutes: Struggling with sexual sins (John 8)
There were more disliked and disdained people in the world of ancient Rome, at least in the province called Judea. Men and women gave themselves to impulsive desires by acting as temple prostitutes. According to the history we have, they would act out sexual orgies as religious rites, especially to fertility gods. They would have their heads shaved among various other markings so that others would know who they were and what they did. Of course, the Pharisees would have absolutely nothing to do with them. They were religious zealots who lived by God’s laws. These women skulked in corners and at the entrances to certain parts of town, hoping to catch the business of travelers and merchants. Many of them had no one to take care of them. Women couldn’t really have jobs back in that male dominant society. So if their male relatives died or dumped them on the street, they had little more than this to do for work.