A Friend of Publicans and Sinners Matt.11:16-19 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
The statement that Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners was a derogatory statement. The generation that saw Jesus in his earthly ministry accused him of being a glutton and a winebibber because he ate with publicans and sinners [Lk 5:27-30]. Publicans were public officials, like tax collectors or customs agents, who were in positions whereby they could use their offices to exact more than was appointed to them [Lk 3:12-13]. So, they were despised. Although sometimes classified with harlots, Jesus would eat with them.
Jesus had a very effective ministry with them because he knew their spiritual need [Lk 5:30-32]. Some of them were evidently saved. Matthew, one of the twelve, had been a publican [Matt 10:3; 9:9]. Zacchaeus was a publican [Lk 19:2, 8] yet he confessed that if he had “taken anything from any man by false accusation” he would restore it fourfold.
Lk 18:10-14 shows you that a repentant publican is in much more favour with God than a self-righteous Pharisee. As a result, publicans and harlots entered the Kingdom of God before the Pharisees [Matt 21:31-32]. So what can we learn about being a friend of publicans and sinners?
Not all publicans are despised – Matt 5:46-47 – some are loved and love their friends and some salute those that salute them – some are even rich and have many friends [Lk 5:29] – but good ole boys without Christ are still sinners in need of a Saviour and we need to recognize that.
Most publicans will accept an invitation to visit with you – Matt 9:10-11 – particularly if you offer to buy or fix them a meal – much good work has been done for the Lord over the dinner table – businessmen use lunch as an occasion to develop business and we should not be afraid to eat with sinners like Jesus did.
Befriending publicans won’t defile you – Jesus knew no sin – Jesus did no sin – Jesus was tempted like us yet without sin – you are not there to learn their language and their ways but to teach them about Jesus.
Most publicans already know they are sinners – Matt 11:19 – Daisy Tippin said that in her day even the sinners knew who the sinners were – unlike religious Pharisees who don’t know they are sinners, publicans do know and that makes working with them a little “easier.”
Publicans just need somebody to tell them about Jesus – Mk 2:16-17 – we need to call them to repentance which is their great spiritual need – they need repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 20:21].
Once publicans hear about Jesus some will follow him – Lk 7:29-30 – Matthew and Zacchaeus did – and you will meet people who will follow him, too – they become godly men.
And best of all Jesus will receive them – Lk 15:1-2 – without Jesus they have no hope in their eternity – and given some of the things they may have done with the influence of their offices, they may be inclined to think that Jesus would never accept them – but the word of God tells us that “this man receiveth sinners.”
Conclusion: you and I need to realize that in order to have an effective ministry with sinners, we must converse with them about the Lord – a good way to do this is to befriend them [‘a friend’] and sit down with them over a meal to tell them about Jesus. Will you do this?