Jesus “hung out” with the wrong people! And it is Luke that seems to have noticed this more than any of the other gospel writers. In Luke 5, after Jesus had called Levi, the tax collector, to leave everything and follow him, Levi prepared an incredible feast and asked Jesus to attend. Many other tax collectors were at the party which disturbed the Pharisees so they asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
In Luke 7, Jesus is invited to a dinner at the home of a Pharisee. As Jesus took his place at the table, a woman who did not have the best reputation in town, stood behind Jesus at his feet and “wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” When the Pharisee saw this he was aghast that Jesus would allow such a sinful woman near him. If Jesus was truly a prophet, he would have known this woman was an outcast. Jesus should have sent her away.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho in Luke 19, he encountered a man by the name of Zacchaeus, a tax collector. Though it looked as though Jesus was going to leave Jericho without taking time to enjoy a meal, his encounter with Zacchaeus led to dinner at his home that evening. When the news got around that Jesus was going to eat with Zacchaeus, some grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
In Jesus’s day, there was much hostility between the religious and the people of the land. The religious were those who took the law seriously. They were trained in religious law and stuck to a religious code. This caused them to not associate with those who did not take the law as serious. Specifically, there were food laws which meant Pharisees had to be careful as to what they ate and to whom they ate with. Table fellowship was a critical symbol of identity. And yet there was Jesus, eating with all those “tax collectors and sinners.”
But not only was Jesus going to the “religious outsiders,” they were also coming to him. Luke points this out when he writes that tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him (Luke 15:1). And as to be expected, this disturbed the Pharisees. And it is this hard-heartedness of the religious leaders that prompted Jesus to tell the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to rescue and restore. But the Pharisees didn’t get it.
I write all this above to ask ourselves this question: If we follow Jesus, who will we be drawn to and who will be drawn to us? Consider what Tim Keller writes:
Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.
Did not Jesus ask Simon and Andrew to follow Him and as they did, he would make them “fishers of men?” (Mt. 4:19). Did not Jesus also tell all His disciples that “as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). So let’s ask ourselves once again, if we follow Jesus, who will we be drawn to and who will be drawn to us?