Jesus: The Friend of Publicans and Sinners
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! (Luke 7:34 NKJV).
Jesus was called The Friend of Publicans and Sinners; not a complimentary term in His day. Jews especially hated Publicans because they “sold out” to the enemy, i.e., Rome. Roman officials “sold” the right to Jewish citizens who collected taxes for Rome. These Publicans bought the right to collect taxes, and then added their profits or wages. If the unwilling Jewish taxpayer refused to pay his taxes, Roman soldiers were used to reinforce the Publican demands. Publicans were religiously unclean because they fellowshipped with Gentiles, and morally unclean for taking advantage of the poor and innocent. Because the common people hated Publicans, when Jesus went to eat with them, some observers questioned Jesus’ motives, or at least His judgment. Jesus responded to this criticism, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
The Jewish people also criticized Jesus for eating with sinners. There were people of Jewish blood who refused to keep the Jewish law, attend the Sabbath observance, or honor God. The average Jew considered a “sinner” lost. But Jesus wanted everyone to know He came into the world—to save one and all—no matter if they were morally upright or outwardly sinful.
Jesus loves and accepts any and all, no matter if they are morally upright or outward sinners.