I love the way the Gospel lesson for Sunday opens up. It follows quickly on the heels of Jesus’ attempt at reverse marketing that we heard read last Sunday, where he listed all sorts of things that would keep someone from being his disciple. You know, stuff like: family, life, and material possessions. It seems amazing then that two verses later, we hear that “All the tax collectors and sinners were coming to listen to Jesus.” Seems they had nothing to lose.
The Pharisees and Scribes, however, were not impressed. Luke tells us they were “grumbling” about with whom Jesus was hanging out. “This fellow welcomes sinners! He eats with them!” This is not the way a proper Rabbi was supposed to act. They knew it. Jesus knew it. Even the sinners and tax collectors knew it. Which is probably why they chose to hang out with Jesus in the first place.
The Pharisees and Scribes grumble at Jesus’ choice in road trip mates, but I give thanks. If he didn’t welcome sinners and eat with them, I’d be up a creek without a paddle. There’d be no salvation for me. There’d be no hope for the future. And the eating thing is big in the Church, even more so in sacramental churches like The Episcopal Church, in which I am ordained as a priest, commissioned to feed from the Lord’s Table sinners and the outcast.
Thank God that Jesus hung out with people like me. Thank God he chose to eat with them. Thank God he gave up his life for them.