One would typically assume that Jesus and the church leaders of his day would be great friends and get along well. The Pharisees and religious leaders of those days had the opportunity of a lifetime to interact with the One whom they had committed their lives to serve, in the flesh. Throughout the gospels, it was common for these Pharisees to attempt to undermine and negate the deity of Jesus. Imagine being in the same room as Jesus and not even recognizing him! The methodology of Jesus was vastly different from the religious leaders' methods, which caused them to despise Jesus because this was not the Messiah that they had imagined.
Mark gives us a fascinating account in his gospel where the Pharisees were questioning the methods of Jesus once again. In Mark 2:16-17, the scripture says,
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Jesus believed in a table-to-table ministry. The Pharisees would say that our faith in the law gets us in right relationship with God. But we see a beautiful picture of how it is actually through Jesus that we can be in relationship with God. Jesus did not come to abolish the law; He came to fulfill it, and through Jesus, we are made holy in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Jesus does not ask for a list of all the sins you committed before sitting at your table; He just sits with you.
For a moment, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of one of those tax collectors or individuals labeled “sinners”. For so long, imagine having been alienated and disregarded by the religious leaders. You haven’t been welcomed at anyone's table and you constantly carry a heavy weight of shame. Then suddenly, Jesus appears, and without hesitation or restraint, he joins you at your table. He doesn’t try to condemn or harass you, he simply wants to talk with you. He wants to be in relationship with you.
We’re called to welcome any and everyone to our table and show them the love and grace of Jesus. What we always say here at VOUS is that freedom is found in the context of community. Real-life change happens in relationship with others. We learn to walk out of our faith and find freedom through relationships. There is a clear dichotomy here between the Pharisees and those labeled as sinners. On one hand, we see a life committed to religion isolates. On the other, we see that a life dedicated to a relationship with Jesus leads us to community. When one lives a life devoted to a relationship with Jesus, it should cause an internal transformation that can only be found in Jesus.
Jesus' mission was never to fit in with the religious elite or impress His followers with His supernatural power. He sought after the lost and broken. He found a seat at the table of sinners, not at the table of the righteous. Jesus is not scared off by our mistakes or past; instead, He seeks us out and desires to sit at our table. What the Pharisees failed to see is that we are all sinners in need of a savior. It was never about pointing out who is a sinner and who is holy. It is actually about admitting that we need a savior, and we are sinners that can only be made righteous through Jesus. As Christ-followers, it should be our goal to live a life like Jesus, seeking those who are lost. The goal is not to have our tables full of those who will look good on an Instagram post, but our tables should be filled with those who need to hear the life-transforming message of Jesus.