Jesus Ate with Sinners

People often bring up the idea that Jesus ate with sinners (Matt 9:10-17, Matt 17:16-19) to justify their own sinful lifestyles but they haven’t read the parts of the bible where those same sinners rebelled against and even tried to kill Jesus because he called them out for their sins?

Jesus said in response to his critiques for eating with sinners that “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Doctors are supposed to restore people not keep them sick, so he never told people to keep living in sin. Jesus didn’t just criticize the leaders for being hypocrites, and manipulating people with man-made traditions, but he also called out the people themselves. He said only those who heeded his teachings were going to enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 7:21-23). In fact, he often said, “go and sin no more” (John 5:14, John 8:10-11) and “your sins are forgiven” when healing people (Matt 9:2-5). He even called a group of people “children of the devil” because they rejected the idea that they were “slaves to their sin” and that he came to “set them free” (John 8:31-47).

In Luke 19:5-10, Jesus ate with a corrupt tax collector named Zacchaeus and the people were scoffing that Jesus would eat with such a man. When Jesus left, the man repented and promised to give half his wealth to the poor and pay back all the money he had stolen four times over. This was the point of him eating with sinners, he wanted them to change. He also told Pharisees when eating with them that inviting rich people to their parties was worthless to the kingdom of God, but inviting poor people would guarantee that they would participate in the resurrection of the righteous into eternal life (Luke 14:12-14). Another example is the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with the oil in Luke 7:36-50. The Pharisees at the dinner scoff at the fact that he would let “a woman like her” touch him. Jesus gave a parable of two debts being forgiven and pointed out that the person with the greater debt was more grateful. he then connected that to the woman by saying that she was forgiven and that her act of anointing his feet was like an “anointment sacrifice” for her debt (her sins). This woman’s actions showed that she wanted to stop sinning and turned her life around. Jesus wouldn’t have said all that if she was just pretending to agree with him for free miracles but still living like a heathen.

Mobs of people tried to kill him multiple times but he always escaped by passing through people or disappearing (Luke 4:28-30, John 8:59, John 10:31-39). While the Sanhedrin Council (Jewish leaders) did want him dead, they only attempted to arrest him (Mark 12:12-13) because they wanted him to be legally put down to make a political statement. When the mob tries to kill him, these are the common folk, which included the “sinners he ate with”. This is because he called them out for living in sin and being hard-hearted, and he claimed to be one with God. The same people he healed and feed only followed him for free food and medical care (John 6:26-27). Once he started preaching about turning away from sin they got mad and tried to kill him. He also compared the Israelites of his day to Nineveh in the story of Jonah. He reminded them of how the Ninevites repented when the prophet Jonah ministered to them but these Israelites were too stubborn to repent (Luke 11:29-32). He even compared them to Sodom saying that Sodom will be better off than these people on judgment day (Luke 10:8-16). Jesus never ate with sinners to justify their behavior, he ate with them to reach them and let them know there was a way out.

Jesus eating with sinners:
Matt 9:10 (NLT) Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Jesus explains judgment in John 3:18-21.
John 3:18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

Jesus told the people:
Luke 11:29 As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. 30 What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God. 31 “The queen of Sheba will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 32 The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.

Jesus told his disciples:
Luke 10: 8 “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. 9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ 10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ 12 I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day. 13 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 14 Yes, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you. 15 And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.” 16 Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”