“When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that He [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:16-17
In Mark 2, Jesus called Levi, the tax collector (Matthew is his Greek name), to become one of His disciples. Levi (Matthew) invited Jesus into his home to eat and fellowship with him. Levi’s friends, who happened to also be tax collectors and sinners, followed them and ate with them.
Those with “good” reputations who were respected in the community expressed they didn’t approve of Jesus’ actions. In an effort to tarnish Jesus’ reputation as an insult, the religious leaders described Jesus as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).
Jesus could have chosen anyone to become His disciples, yet He chose a diverse group of ordinary, inexperienced sinners to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Some were poor and uneducated. Some, like Levi (Matthew), were social outcasts who were despised and hated.
Jesus was incredibly strategic during the three years of His earthly ministry.
He knew He had a limited amount of time on earth.
He knew the mission God had set before Him, so His ministerial strategy was to leave the synagogue and go out to the sinners God desired to save.
Jesus’ strategy seems like foolishness from a worldly perspective. Throughout the Gospels, He associated with those who were rejected by society. He connected with lepers, adulterers, prostitutes, the lame, the sick, and the poor. No one was out of His reach.
Jesus saw the invisible and the forgotten. He knew their true need was the need for salvation.
A sinner’s true need is for God’s forgiveness, therefore Jesus, God the Son, seeks out sinners.
Many of the people who sought after Jesus and followed Him desired the transformative change that only He could offer. Jesus met them compassionately where they were at in life – enslaved to sin and helpless to save themselves. Jesus ate and drank with enemies of God so He might share with them His message of reconciliation – the gospel of salvation.
When we hear the gospel, confess our sins, and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are at that very moment born into God’s kingdom as His children who will be with Him for eternity (Romans 8:14-17; Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:1-2) . The gospel transforms sinners into more than just acquaintances or associates of God – we become family.
Jesus invited Himself into the lives of the sinners and outcasts because He was driven by compassion and love.
Believers are called to do the same. We are called to see past a person’s sin, recognize their need for a cure, and offer them Jesus, the only cure for sin.
Jesus calls us to love people more than we hate where they are in life.
The irony of Mark 2 is that reconciliation to God should have been the mission of the religious leaders and the teachers of the law. They were too focused on who the sinners were rather than what they needed.
Who have you decided is not worthy of the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ?
In God’s kingdom, everyone has the opportunity to be reconciled to Him. A believer’s strategic mission is to use our short lives here on earth to share God’s message of salvation and forgiveness to those we encounter.
This does not mean believers condone sin or entangle ourselves in the life-dominating sins of unbelievers. We imitate Jesus by having compassion for the lost, connecting with unbelievers for His strategic mission to bring them to repentance and reconciliation with God.
God’s mission may call you outside the walls of your church. You may have to interact with those outside of your Bible study, your ministry, and your social group.
You may have to leave your comfort zone to reach those who do not look like you, think like you, or behave like you.
It means we have to be like Jesus: willing to share His message of love and compassion with a hostile world who may not want to hear it.
Consider the radical effect believers would have in the world if we chose to put aside our comfort, our pride, and our fear to simply preach Jesus to one new person every day.
Who do you know who needs salvation?
What are you willing to risk in order to reach out to them?
Peace and grace to you,
Terria Moore serves on the Love God Greatly encouragement team. She is a Georgia native, but currently lives in Virginia with her husband. She is a lover of naps, Oreos, and, especially, Jesus. Her passion is to ignite a generation of millennial women to grab hold of God’s truth and cling tightly. By day, she works serving patients tirelessly in local military hospitals. At night, she loves to read and write about the lessons and love that God has poured out in her life. Despite the tumultuous circumstances of Terria’s life, God always shows Himself strong and loving. You can connect with her on Instagram.
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