Friendship is a powerful thing. Next to our family it’s our closest relationships. The best part of friendship is the fact that you have the opportunity (and blessing) of choosing our friends. Many times our friends end up being a lot like us, but on occasion we befriend someone and end up looking a little like The Odd Couple.
The question asked more than any other about Jesus was, “Why is he a friend of sinners?” However, Jesus’ friends weren’t just your typical sinners. He befriended prostitutes, demoniacs, and the “worst of sinners”. Included in that list was often tax collectors. Tax collectors were the worst kind of traitors. They stole from their own people and worked in cahoots with the oppressing empire that jailed, raped, and killed their own people.
One friendship of Jesus’ strikes me more than almost any other, it was a friendship with a man named Zaccheus. Zaccheus was one of those traitor / tax collector guys. He was a short man, and when Jesus came to his town he just wanted to see Jesus. He was also resourceful, so he climbed up in a tree so he could see Jesus. When Jesus passes by, he calls up to Zaccheus and calls him by name. Jesus asks to have dinner at Zaccheus’ place that night.
In that culture dinner was (in still is in many places in the Middle East) an event. It’s spending the evening with the person, it’s intimate, it’s personal. In the culture of the day it showed that you accepted and embraced the person you were eating with. It’s intriguing that Jesus addressed Zaccheus by name. On a side note, it’s interesting that the name Zaccheus means “righteous”. You see, Jesus saw Zaccheus not for what he did, but instead saw inherent, intrinsic value in him. He saw the potential inside of Zaccheus.
What’s most revealing is what Jesus didn’t say to Zaccheus. He didn’t “take a stand” against his sin, he didn’t spend his time shaking his finger at Zaccheus’ lifestyle. He just ate with him, spent time with him, and how did Zaccheus respond to this kind of love and friendship? He decides to give back everything that he’s stolen (and then some). He chooses to make right the wrongs he’s committed. He chooses to follow the way of Jesus.
It was the great evangelist Billy Graham that said, “It’s God’s job to judge, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, and our job to love.” May we be Christians that love those that are far from God. May we begin to be known for loving and befriending those that the church has spent decades throwing rocks at. May we see people for who they are and not what they do. May you… and may I… become a little more like Felix and Oscar of The Odd Couple. May we all have an Oscar to our Felix. May we be like Jesus, the friend of sinners.
By: Dan Matlock
Lead Pastor of Eikon Church