Jesus’ Party for Sinners
In our summer sermon series, Gracious Hospitality, we are looking at the some of the meals that Jesus ate that are recorded in Luke’s Gospel. As we look at them, we find Jesus often reveals to us who God is over the course of a meal. He uses one of our most basic practices (a meal) as an opportunity for divine revelation.
In Luke 5, Jesus is at dinner with people described as “tax collectors and sinners.” One Bible scholar suggests this proves Jesus was the consumate party animal.
I don’t know about you, but that description of Jesus makes me think of the way Cal Naughton, Jr. idealized Jesus in Talladega Nights: In a tuxedo t-shirt, “because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.”
Jesus, a party animal? The idea is a bit scandalous. It peaks our attention. But it misses the point of the story.
The religious leaders (Pharisees) don’t get mad at Jesus for partying. Instead, they can’t understand why Jesus would want to dine with “tax collectors and sinners.” In contrast, Jesus invites sinners to come to him. He shares a meal with them. And, over the course of that meal, he not only shows them he cares for them, he teaches them something about God and his grace.
Jesus’ grace toward sinners drives the religious leaders nuts. They saw meals as an opportunity to separate and shun, not to welcome, outsiders. In the culture of that day, meals represented an intimate relationship of trust. They would never eat a meal with tax collectors and sinners. In their minds, those people were outsiders. Those people were sick. Those people were diseased. Those people were best kept at a distance.
But, Jesus saw tax collectors and sinners as those in need of healing, those in need of God’s grace. He engaged with them. He cared for them. He called them to repentance. He loved them.
Jesus went so far as to invite a tax collector—a man many considered worthless, vile, and unclean—into his closest circle of followers. In response to Jesus’ invitation, Matthew not only left everything to follow Jesus, he threw a party so other sinners can meet Jesus too.
Jesus’ invitation to Matthew shows us who receives God’s grace. Matthew’s commitment shows us how people respond to God’s grace.
Listen to Pastor Elliot’s sermon: Jesus’ Party for Sinners.