Jesus Ate with the Sinners, Publicans and Tax Collectors?

After being in the church for some time it doesn’t take long before you hear the statement

Jesus ate with sinners.”

At the first sound of hearing this statement it seems true and to be according to scripture. It also has an appearance of a loving, merciful, God therefore it is accepted as Christian doctrine. The bible does have a scripture that says “Why does your Teacher(Christ) eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Many times when I have heard Christians quote this it was used to justify why they go to a bar or concert or something that the world offers. So is this really what this scripture is saying to us? Read closely and see. Here are 2  accounts of this same story.

Matthew 9:9-11

9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

Luke 5:27-29

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. 29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees[a] complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

First thing that stands out to me is that Jesus called Levi out to follow Him. Levi does follow therefore showing or proving his faith in Christ. Then Levi throws a feast for Jesus and His disciples. What happens next,”as Jesus sat at the table,” the bible says “many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Him…” This is where the confusion and misinterpretation comes in. The idea that Jesus made an appoint to hang in the local taverns and clubs of that day because that is where the lost are, is simply not true.

I use this example, lets say a homosexual lived next store to me and invited me over or to be more accurate, came over to my house because he wanted to know about the Christ that lived in me?  I would be all for it. Would I go to the gay bar or any bar for that matter, in the hope that I might rub off on some lost person? Did Jesus really do that?

The pharisees missed the point that we are to be a light to a world. To them hanging out with a “sinner” made them look unrighteous. Jesus came to save the lost which they did not understand. Jesus didn’t come to “kick it,” with the lost.

Jesus didn’t make a point to be intimate with the world. The bible says this concerning the world  in James 4:4“….know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.The people you could say Jesus loved most were people like Lazarus, or the disciple that laid on His chest at the last supper. It was those He was intimate with, His bride!

In conclusion we can see the reality is that Jesus ate with sinners because they came to Him. They came to His table and because He loved them He shared the good news. Jesus walked from city to city and town to town preach the gospel to those who would receive it. Sometimes in the desert, other times in the town square, and other times in a boat. Jesus did not make a point to hang at the local bars or clubs or find a way to relate with to the people, he lived a consecrated life set apart for the Father, went to a cross and died and rose to bring hope for mankind. There is no person to vile to hear the gospel and no one to far that God can not save if they will humble themselves and receive the love of the truth.

It is a shame so many preachers, teachers, and Christians regurgitate these kinds of doctrines without looking to see if truly that is what the bible says. Let us be wise in this last hour.

4 Responses to Jesus Ate with the Sinners, Publicans and Tax Collectors?

  1. Amen! For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36

  2. Outstanding, Aaron. It’s wonderful that Jesus had the power to ‘draw all men unto me’, no matter who or what they were. He reached the reachable, and that spiritual exchange that you described between Himself and us was the bridge expanding the worst chasm in existence: the one between God and mankind.


  3. Rachel Brucker says:

    I must disagree.

    What of the story of Zacchaeus?

    Zacchaeus is a tax collector. Jesus is coming to his town and he climbs a tree to see Jesus as he passes…
    Luke 19:5 Jesus invites himself to Zaccheus’ house.
    Luke 19:6 Zacchaeus receives Jesus into his home “joyfully” (not into his heart. Zacchaeus clearly repents in Luke 19:8-9)
    Luke 19:7 People say that he has gone to be guest with a sinner
    Luke 19:8-9 Zacchaeus repents and Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to his home
    Luke 19:10 Jesus states “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

    You also omitted the passage that follows in your Matthew 9 excerpt.
    When the Pharisees make comment about his choice to dine with sinners he says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    Also in Matthew, when Jesus calls Peter and Simon he says: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19)

    Finally, Jesus’ great commission to the disciples tells them to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations. They are not to set up a church and wait passively for sinners to come to them.

    This continues into Acts 5, where the imprisoned disciples are visited by an angel:
    19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

    The evidence — and your passages above, when taken in context — suggest that Jesus did come to “kick it” with the lost. He says it over and over.

    Why would you cut off the passages that say that explicitly?

  4. Terry Fischer says:

    Rachael, There is a difference between going to places to be where sinners are, and being invited by a sinner to eat with them because they are interested in eternal life. Zacchaeus displayed that he wanted to see the Lord by climbing a tree to see Him, even more than that I believe he was showing he was hungry for eternal life. He invited Jesus over so he could hear the truth. I doubt if any of us would turn down an offer to go to our neighbors house because they wanted to hear the good news but we should not go there to be a part of their drinking party. You mentioned the disciples being told by the angel to go stand in the temple courts; did you notice they were sent to a place where for the most part people are gathering for spiritual reasons. I do appreciate your comment and heart for souls.

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