Christ is truly the friend of sinners, yet this idea has been maligned, twisted, and abused so much over the years. In this sermon we discuss in depth the truth of Jesus’ friendship for the sinner in need! Listen above and subscribe on iTunes and Soundcloud!
Sermon text is here.
After doing the episode and spending time thinking about the topic, I wanted to turn back to this and expand the subject, and have my own say on what it really means to say that Jesus is the friend of sinners, and that Jesus is my friend. We typically think of “friend” in a very non-committal way, but when we say that Jesus is a friend of sinners in the sense that Spurgeon exegetes the text to understand, we see that we’re not thinking of “friend” in the standard American sense, where He is some acquaintance we are on generally friendly terms with and who we might invite over for a party to watch a football game. This is a relationship that Christ takes very seriously, and furthermore, it reveals that only by realizing our deep need for that friendship, can we come to Christ in search of it.
I am very aware of my deep-seated need for that very friendship. The Holy Spirit has been gracious enough to me to open my eyes to my nature as a broken sinner, who has nothing good to offer and who has been trying to live for so long under my own power and for my own glory. Let’s look back at the passage in question:
“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”–Luke 7:31-35
I’m using the fuller context to show the contrast and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, as well as to discuss how I can to understand my own deep-seated need. There was a time, I would have been like those men, standing there looking judgmentally at these people who are doing exactly what they should be doing: coming to Christ, bringing their sins, their fears, their needs, and thought to myself “How clever am I, that I have managed to make something of myself! Look at these screwups, I’m so much better off than them.” All the while, like the Pharisees, hiding my sin and pretending nothing is wrong, a whitewashed tomb.
But thank God for His mercy even to the prideful and foolish, and thank Christ for His friendship to the sinner. I am a man who needs it desperately, because in Christ I have the One who made me, who knows me and is the source of my very identity and being. In Christ I have life, a real life that leads to life beyond just pursuing my next whim. These sinners and tax collectors who came to Christ and gathered around Him, who invited Him into their homes, were people who were very well-acquainted with sin and with pursuing their desires, and they had tasted the bitterness of unfulfillment it brings. They had seen the death and pain it wrought in their lives.
In the church today it is important for us to keep our balance, with the fulcrum point of our lives being the Gospel first and foremost. The Gospel brings us daily reminders of what is ultimately true: man is sinful and rebellious against God by His nature, but God is both just and merciful. He sent His Son to pay the price for all those who believe in Him by dying on the cross, He conquered death in rising again, and He stands at the right hand of the Father as the perfect high priest who can say of His people, “I have covered their sins, I have atoned for them, they are of Me and have life in Me.” But the desires of our flesh are always trying to pull away from this center that destroy’s man’s self-aggrandizement, and move to one of two equally wrong positions: either self-righteous Pharisaism, where behavior and moral assent are more important that repentance and faith, or simply rejecting God altogether. Both entail a foolish belief in man’s autonomy, and both rebel against who we were made to be: created in the image of God, made to know Him and have our fullest life in knowing Him.
Jesus Christ is the friend of the sinner who cries out to Him for mercy. He is the friend of the sinner who has had his heart broken by the Word of God taught to him by the Holy Spirit and needs to be lifted up. He is the friend of the sinner who, like the blind man from a couple sermons ago, cries out “Son of David, have mercy on me!” That mercy is readily and lovingly given. Cry out for it, my friends, and know His peace.