Years ago, someone suggested that my ministry is writing. I’ve been looking back at some of the things I wrote at the time and I’ve decided to update them to share again.
This post is based on something I heard in a class on Luke in seminary and on a book written by UMC Bishop Will Willimon.
“All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” — LUKE 19:7
This simple verse from Luke captures so much of what’s going on in the entire book. On one hand, the writer of Luke-Acts presents us with Jesus who came to the outcasts, to the poor, to the hurting and anyone else who is on the fringes of society. In our recent political season, we added the words “deplorable” and “irredeemable.”
On the other hand, we have the tension over what people expected the messiah to be and do. People were looking for the king in the line of David to lead the army and run the Romans out. Jesus just doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Jesus doesn’t spend all of his time with the religious elite. He doesn’t spend all of his time in the synagogue or wrap himself up in prayer meetings. He doesn’t hang out with Pharisees and scribes. Instead, Jesus steps out into the world and experiences life with the broken and the hurting. The ministry of Jesus takes him out to the people who were considered “unclean” and, ultimately, “unholy.”
And for that reason, the religious authorities of his time wanted to see Jesus arrested and executed.
What was the biggest charge against Jesus?
In the book of Luke, according to Bishop Will Willimon, the biggest problem is the company that Jesus keeps. He hangs out with sinners. In Luke 19, Jesus and his disciples are beginning their journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jesus has already told his followers that Jerusalem represents a time of trial and testing and Jesus will ultimately die on the cross. The bad news, however, ultimately comes with something good. In three days, he will be raised from the dead.
In Luke 19, Jesus and his disciples are on a journey and they walk through Jericho. As they pass, a crowd forms and a tax collector named Zaccheaus is unable to see Jesus. So, he climbs a tree. Jesus spots Zacchaeus up in a tree and, then, invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner.
In the language of the Bible, one of the definitions of the Greek word for sinner is “tax collector.” Zacchaeus isn’t just a tax collector, he’s in charge of other tax collectors. In other words, we could view him as the “Chief of Sinners.” And Jesus goes to the house of the “Chief of Sinner” to share a meal.
It is enough to make the people mutter. They just don’t understand how Jesus can ignore them and go and spend his time with the Chief Tax Collector. In response to what Jesus has offered, Zacchaeus stands up and say that he’s giving half of what he collected back to the people he took it from.
It is there that Jesus declares that salvation has come to this house — today! And Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham.” In other words, Jesus puts Zacchaeus on the same level as everyone else — all of those Pharisees, priests and scribes who think that they are more holy than most other people they come in contact with. Jesus levels the playing field.
What does this mean for us?
- It’s the Good News. The Good News, the greatest news ever, is that Jesus came for us to rescue us, to reset our lives, to redeem us.
- It’s for everyone who accepts his invitation. Jesus died and rose again for messed up, broken, hurting, poor, dirty, hungry, scared, depressed, angry people. He died and rose again for those who completely messed it up. He died and rose again for those on the right and those on the left. Jesus also died and rose again for those who think they have it together, for those who judge others, for those who are prideful and arrogant.
- It’s open to me and to you. Let’s get personal. We all have a problem and that problem is sin. There’s nothing that you can do to fix your sin problem when it comes to God. You need a savior and you are not it. That’s what Jesus does for us — he’s the one and only savior who can handle the problem of sin that we can’t fix ourselves.
If Jesus will go to the house of the “Chief of Sinners” then he will certainly make a stop at any of our homes for a meal.
Thank God for the savior who is the “guest” of sinners just like us.
ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it. You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.