Jesus was known as a friend of sinners - the wrong sort of people - those who were shunned by polite society. I wonder who he would befriend nowadays.
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
Luke 5 v 27 – 35
Jesus was someone you wanted to invite to your party. So much so, that the Pharisees disapproved and asked why his disciples didn’t fast like those who were following John the Baptist.
Jesus replies in a very Middle Eastern way,
with a short story which is similar to a saying or proverb.
Everyone wants to be popular, to be part of the in-crowd. This seems to have heightened importance in the cultures that I have experienced from the Middle East. Who your friends are says something about who you are. In the Middle East your circle of friends can either add or detract from your status.
We don’t always see the enormity of Jesus’ friendship with the tax collectors. They were not only cheats and thieves, but collaborators with the occupying Romans. Traitors, who whilst helping the enemy, were also lining their own pockets. Totally corrupt. Not to be trusted or even associated with.
Bad company corrupts good morals - but with Jesus the opposite happened.
Something about Jesus challenged people and transformed the bad to good. He was similar to a doctor healing a sick society, by calling sinners to repentance.
By eating and drinking with the hated tax collectors he was accepting them, honouring them and befriending them. This is why the Pharisees and teachers of the law disapproved. They showed their contempt by never socialising with such people.
Jesus didn’t call his disciples servants, but friends.
If he was who he said he was, this is the most amazing offer of friendship in history.