Where Jesus is at tells us a lot—everything!—we need to know about Him as Savior. Who He hangs out with tells us even more about Him. Where He is, who He’s with, and what He does there and with those He finds there all reveal who He is. And all of it offends our religious sensibilities.
Today, Jesus is at sinner’s house. There Jesus is bumping elbows with untouchables, sinners. There He’s talking with prostitutes. There He’s feasting on food and enjoying a nice wine, I’m sure. All of it purchased with the proceeds of a tax-man, St. Matthew. Traitor’s money gotten by squeezing his fellow Israelites, all the while working for those Romans.
At sinner’s house Jesus eats and drinks and celebrates with prostitutes, with traitors, with sinners. It’s as if He’s one of them! The sinners’ Rabbi, the sinners’ Teacher, the sinners’ Christ. When you look at Him, when you look at them, what’s the difference? How can you tell them apart? He eats what they eat. He goes where they go. And now He even makes one of those sinners, one of those tax-collecting traitors one of His apprentices! Someone who speaks His Word—what Jesus says he says.
At sinner’s house, He would eat with Pharisees, too. They’re also invited to the party. They come, but the Pharisees refuse to eat at Jesus’ table in sinner’s house. “Doesn’t He know who they are? Doesn’t He know what they’ve done? What they do? Doesn’t He care? Who does He think He is? Coming into their midst, into sinner’s house without any expectation that they fix themselves, tidy up their lives for God. ‘On what basis does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?!’”
The Pharisees know lots of bases to cover, lots of boxes to check, lots of things to set right before you could get in good with God—big ones, little ones. Everything tidied up before you could get back in. Confess, make amends, make vows and promises, and then you would earn back what you had lost. Your confession, your work that you must do before you actually get Lord’s forgiveness. Pharisees—self-appointed divine tax collectors. They knew the confession, the amount, the tax, the penalty, the tithe owed.
Jesus knows the Pharisees, hears their complaint. And if where Jesus is, who He’s with, and what He does there with them weren’t enough to tell you what He’s all about, well, He opens His mouth and sets the record straight. “‘Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor, but those who are sick.’ Put aside all the other things you’ve learned, your steps, stages, sacrifices, and ‘learn this: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to make house calls on righteous people but sinners.’”
The sick can’t heal themselves. Cancer isn’t self-treated. A broken leg isn’t set and mended on its own. Sinners can’t forgive themselves. Who Jesus is with tells us everything about Him, for it tells us whom He’s treating, whom He’s healing. There at sinner’s house Jesus is forgiving tax collectors and sinners. There He goes where they go. There He’s at table with them. There He’s in the business of taking their sin, their thievery, their prostitution, even their pharisa-izing, and He makes them His own. He becomes those things so much so that His Father can’t tell the difference, and so this Doctor, this Savior then Himself dies as a sinner to heal and forgive sinners, even you.
He sets what is broken. He desires to have mercy upon sinners rather than demand sacrifice from them. He has mercy in such a way that He calls tax collector Matthew—sinner!—to deliver that mercy for sinners. Jesus fills St. Matthew up with His Word and Gifts and forgiveness, His death and resurrection, and sends Matthew out, He apostles him, with those Words and Gifts and forgiveness. And so Matthew’s words are Jesus’ words! Jesus’ Words delivered to the ends of the earth and until the end of time: “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19); “eat; this is My body. Drink; this is My blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:26–28)
The Lord hangs out with a certain kind of people today, and this tells you exactly what sort of God He is—the saving Kind, the healing Kind, the forgiving Kind. So, today, Jesus is at sinners’ house, this house, here with you sinners. What does He expect from you? Nothing. He simply wants to pour out His mercy upon you, into you. No tax or tithe required. No sacrifices wanted. Your neighbor does need them, though.
He’s here to set you right, right with God. To tell you that’s already the case. He’s just delivering it again. He sets a table here, too. Would you refuse it? There your Doctor prescribes the best medicine: the medicine of forgiveness, the medicine of eternal life—His body and blood given and shed for you. What need do you have for a second opinion? His medicine does what it says.
Here He fills you up with His Word, His forgiveness, His body and blood. His Word for you to the end of earth and time. “I baptize you.” My Name upon you—your help is in that name. But more! “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That medicine will well up within you, healing you, forgiving you, “refreshing you,” “strengthening you in faith toward God and in fervent,” real “love for each other.” You know what? Probably best to take both and call Dr. Jesus in the morning.