Christ came to Identify with Sinners
Read Isaiah 53:12; Mark 2:15-17
“And was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12)
The religious establishment was shocked and offended that Christ would dine with tax collectors and sinners. He was befriending those that were seen as the lowest of society. It was one thing when Jesus called fishermen to become part of his disciples, but it was a different story when he associated himself with Matthew, a despised tax collector, and his co-workers. The tax collectors were shunned and regarded with contempt. Not only did they often use the guise of collecting taxes to pad their own pocketbook, they were also regarded as traitors for consorting with the Romans in their abuse of the Jewish people. But their dislike for the tax collectors was not just political or economic. It was theologically driven as well. For the religious leaders of the day, the submission and alignment with the Romans was regarded as an act of treason not only against the Jews, but against God himself. Therefore, when he joined with them at a meal, they were shocked when Christ identified himself as a friend of the betrayers of Israel. In the eyes of many, being associated with tax collectors was more offensive, than being in contact with a leper.
But if these religious leaders had been closer students of the messianic prophecies, they would not have been surprised, for Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be one who was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). When the Messiah would come, he would be associated and identified with sinners, not only in his death but also in his life and ministry. Not because he himself was a sinner, but because he would identify himself as a friend to sinners. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus demonstrates his love and acceptance of tax collectors and sinners in spite of their sin. While Christ came to bring salvation and deliverance from sin, he was also willing to love them unconditionally and completely. But this unconditional love was grounded in his desire to deliver people from their bondage to sin. This is the point he makes in his response. The healthy do not need a physician, but the sick. But the physician comes in order to bring healing from their illness, not just affirm them in their sickness. Christ did not just come to demonstrate love for the sinner, but to bring the healing touch of his redemptive work. He came that we might have freedom from the domination and tragedy of sin.
This brings us to several important truths. Christ identifies with sinners and loves us in spite of our sin. Our salvation is not grounded in our inherent worth and goodness but in the healing power of his redemption. He truly identified with us in order that he would take our sins upon himself that we might be free from sins guilt and consequence. One of the great wonders of the incarnation was not just that God would reveal himself to us by becoming one of us, but that the infinitely holy God would be willing to count sinful people as his friend. God loves us in spite of our sin. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, then we too must love people to bring them the hope of salvation. Sin destroys lives and alienates people both from God and from others. It brings bondage whose chains are so strong and tightly bound that we cannot escape its clutches. But just as a physician brings life through the knowledge of the cure, so we bring spiritual hope and life to people through the proclamation of the spiritual cure of Christ’s work on the cross. May we follow his footsteps by befriending people to give them the hope of salvation.