Luke 15:1, 2
Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.…
The great Teacher himself said that the things which are highly esteemed among men may be abomination in the sight of God; and we may safely assume that the converse of this proposition is true also. Certainly, in this bitter charge brought against our Lord we now perceive the very highest tribute which could be paid him.
I. A BITTER CHARGE AGAINST THE SAVIOUR. It is not easy for us to realize the intensity of the feeling here expressed. The Jews, arguing from the general truth that holiness shrinks from contact with guilt, supposed that the holier any man was, the more scrupulously would he avoid the sinner; and they concluded that the very last thing the holiest man of all would do was to have such fellowship with sinners as to "eat with them." Their patriotic hatred of the publican, and their moral repugnance toward "the sinner," filled them with astonishment as they saw him, who claimed to be the Messiah himself, taking up a positively friendly attitude toward both of these intolerable characters. Their error was, as error usually is, a perversion of the truth. They did not understand that the same Being who has the utmost aversion to sin can have and does have the tenderest yearning of heart toward the sinner; that he who utterly repels the one is mercifully pitying and patiently seeking and magnanimously winning the other. So the men of acknowledged piety and purity in the time of our Lord failed completely to understand him, and they brought against him the charge which might well prove fatal to his claims - that he was having a guilty fellowship with the outcast among men and the abandoned among women.
II. THE HIGHEST TRIBUTE TO THE SAVIOUR. In that attitude and action of his which seemed to his contemporaries to be so unworthy of him we find the very thing which constitutes his glory and his crown. Of course, association with sinners, on the basis of spiritual sympathy with them, is simply shameful; and to break up their association with the intemperate, the licentious, the dishonest, the scornful, is the first duty of those who have been their companions and have shared their wrong-doings, but whose eyes have been opened to see the wickedness of their course. It is for such to say, "Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keel) the commandments of my God." But that is far from exhausting the whole truth of the subject. For Christ has taught us, by his life as well as and as much as by his Word, that to mingle with the sinful in order to succour and save them is the supreme act of goodness. When a man's character has been so well established that he can afford to do so without serious risk either to himself or to his reputation, and when, thus fortified, well armed with purity, he goes amongst the criminal and the vicious and the profane, that he may lilt them up from the miry places in which they are wandering, and place their feet on the rock of righteousness, then does he the very noblest, the divinest thing he can do. It was this very thing which Jesus Christ came to do: "He came to seek and to save that which was lost." It was this principle which he was continually illustrating; and nothing could more truly indicate the moral grandeur of his spirit or the beautiful beneficence of his life than the words by which it was sought to dishonour him: "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It is this which will constitute the best tribute that can be paid to any of his disciples now. "There is nothing of which any true minister of Jesus Christ, whether professional or not, ought to be so glad and so proud, as to be such that the enemies of the Lord shall say tauntingly, while his friends will say thankfully, 'This man receiveth sinners.'"
III. THE GREATEST POSSIBLE ENCOURAGEMENT TO OURSELVES. There are men who know they are sinners, but care not; there are those who do not know that they are guilty in the sight of God; and there are others who do know and who do care. It is to these last that the Saviour of mankind is especially addressing himself. To them all he is offering Divine mercy; restoration to the favour, the service, and the likeness of God; everlasting life. On their ear there may fall these words, intended for a grave accusation, but constituting to the enlightened soul the most welcome tidings - "This Man receiveth sinners.' - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.