And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold…
The incident here recorded follows on the call of Matthew the publican. Our Lord had just appointed a member of an order usually regarded as hopelessly reprobate to be one of his apostles. It was natural that the publican's old associates should recognize this breaking down of old barriers, and flock to the feast which Matthew provided to welcome and honour his new Friend.
I. THE FACT. Jesus did eat and drink with men of questionable occupation, and even with those of notoriously bad character. He did not simply show himself kindly disposed towards such people. He associated with them. Many benevolent persons would wish them well, and-some would support homes and refuges for the most miserable and degraded among them. But the Church of Christ has been slow in following her Master's example in showing real brotherhood for people under a social ban. The conduct of Jesus was new to the world, and it has been but rarely followed. Here is the wonder of his brotherly nature. He will take the lowest to the priceless privilege of his friendship.
II. THE COMPLAINT. This conduct of our Lord was regarded as scandalous by the religious people of his day, as similar conduct on the part of any good man who was daring enough to attempt it would be regarded by the religious people of our own times. It was not really suspected that he enjoyed the bad atmosphere of low society, but he was charged with courting that society in order to win popularity. Ungenerous people cannot conceive of generous motives. To them the grandest act of self-sacrifice must have some sinister aim.
III. THE EXPLANATION. Jesus associated with persons of bad character in the hope of raising them. He compared himself to a physician who does not pay his visits to healthy people. The doctor on his rounds goes to some strange houses. If he were but a casual caller, his choice of associates might raise a scandal. But his work determines his action. Though he has to handle and study what is very repulsive, science and humane ends elevate his treatment of it, and keep this pure. Christ goes first where he is most needed. Not desert, not pleasure, but need, draws him. When he comes it is to heal. His purpose sanctifies his association with persons of loose character. His one aim is to do them good.
IV. THE JUSTIFICATION. The religious people who accused our Lord had formed a totally false conception of the service which was acceptable to God. Jesus answered them out of their own Bible. There they might have read that what God required was not ceremonial offerings, but kindness to our fellow-men - "mercy and not sacrifice." Thus he turns the tables. These very religious people, his accusers, are not pleasing God. They are very particular about formal observances, but they neglect the weightier matters of the Law. Christ is truly doing God's will by showing mercy. God is love, and Divine love is never so gratified as by the exercise of human charity. Therefore it is quite in accordance with his Father's will that Christ shall call the sinners. His mission is to them. Those people who think themselves righteous cannot have any blessing from Christ. The self-righteous hypocrite is really further from the kingdom of heaven than the publican and the sinner. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.