Eating with Sinners

Jesus & Matthew

On Sunday, we preached from Matthew 9 where Matthew speaks autobiographically about when Jesus called him to be a disciple. It’s a great story. Matthew is a tax collector. That means he’s likely a sinful, cheating, despicable man working for the hated Roman empire. Tax collectors usually made friends with the other despised degenerates of society like prostitutes and drunkards. And these are exactly the kind of people that Matthew invites to his house party to celebrate meeting Jesus.

And here’s the thing that has struck me about the story. Jesus is God in the flesh. So when we see Jesus, we’re seeing God. I kept reading the passage inserting “God” for “Jesus” just to make this explicit in my mind. So hear Matthew 9:10 from that perspective for a second:

And as God reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with God and his disciples.

God reclines at the table with sinners! Imagine that. In Genesis, God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. But then sin enters the world and shatters the intimacy man once enjoyed with God. The Scriptures make clear that sin and sinners cannot exist in the presence of God. The repeated refrain of the Old Testament is that man cannot see God and live. The people of Israel are warned to tread lightly in the presence of God lest they be consumed. Even when God dwells among His people in the tabernacle and temple, there is the Holy of Holies separating God and man. A man is killed for touching the Ark of the Covenant representing the presence of God. The Ark was about to fall to the ground and so he figured he would hold it up and God strikes him dead! God is not kidding about his holiness and man’s sinfulness.

And then you get, And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. This is the glory of the Gospel. When we could not get to God, when we could not go near God, when we could not approach God – He approaches us. He comes near us. He gets to us. God wraps Himself in flesh, so that in Jesus, He might sit at the table and eat with sinners. What a God and what a Gospel!

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