Jesus Christ is the “Friend of Sinners.”
Before the world was created, he foresaw the sins of Lucifer, his demonic followers, Father Adam, all his race, our parents, and us. He abhorred our iniquity, and in his holy wrath he created the Lake of Fire for all who lived like hell and joined Lucifer’s rebellion.
However, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were also filled with unexpected and undeserved compassion. They determined to send the Son to earth, to become a man, to live on behalf of rebellious and belligerent men and women, and partake of their divine damnation. Yes, the Father would take his own divine condemnation and pour it out upon his Son. He would also take his Beloved Son’s righteousness-merit and drape it as a sacred robe around the backs of his prodigal children.
As the older hymn goes:
Jesus, what a friend for sinners; Jesus lover of my soul. Friends may fail me, foes assail me; He my Savior, makes me whole. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving; He is with me to the end.
As the modern song goes:
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Yes, Jesus is the friend of gluttons, drunkards, prostitutes, and even pious self-righteous sinners. He is the “Friend of Sinners,” therefore it is not surprising to see his ministerial work-ethic as he travels the Palestinian landscape. In Mark 3 which is listed below, he is seen putting his loving friendship into motion. He travels here, there, and everywhere showering men with common grace (Gospel deeds of love) while spreading about his special grace (Gospel words of love). He makes food for the hungry, wine for the thirsty, and time for the lonely. He exorcises devils and demons while healing diseases and disabilities. And everyday, he teaches and preaches his divine truth — God’s Law and Gospel are always being promoted. What is it that drives Jesus? He is driven by a love for the Father. He is driven by the indwelling Spirit. Jesus drives himself, for he is a man on mission. Jesus has come to earth to be the “Friend of Sinners.”
And what is the result?
Jesus Christ is one with many fans.
Everywhere he goes, people love him.
The Messiah is surrounded by those who for centuries have awaited his arrival. These people have pondered, panted, and prayed for the coming of the Special Seed of Adam, the Miraculous Son of Abraham, the King of Judah, the Prophet of Moses, the Messiah of David, the Baby of Bethlehem, and Isaiah’s Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Recently, John the Baptist has come in the spirit and power of Elijah. Yes, the promised herald has arrived on the scene. Jesus has the forerunner, and he appears to have the miraculous credentials. There is an air of intrigue and excitement. At this point, Jesus is so popular with the Jewish masses — secular and sacred — because he really does seem to walk with messianic swagger.
Those in the church have waited for a long time to see the spiritual reforms he will bring about. This is especially true with those labeling themselves “Pharisees.” For a long time they have bemoaned the spiritual climate of their day. In their assessment, too many people seem too casual about holiness. There is too much compromise and not enough purity. It is time for reformation, and Jesus just might prove to be the one who could bring this about.
Hebrew politicians are also excited. This rabbi seems to have a great following and a great potential to bring about the desired political changes. For far too long, Gentile lords have run rough-shod over God’s chosen people. It is time for Zion to shine again, and perhaps this leader from Nazareth could prove to be the revolutionary one delivering Israel from the heathen dogs?
Many are his fans because of his preaching. Bottom line, no one teaches and debates like Jesus. He expounds God’s Word with exactness and authority — almost like he is the one who first penned it. His teaching is interesting, polarizing, and potent.
Everywhere he goes, people gather to see what “magic” he might do next. In recent months he has been accompanied by voices and doves from heaven. Regularly, he casts out demons and cures any number of diseases. Paralytics are lowered through roofs and walk home carrying their beds. Men with withered hands are immediately straightened, and wicked women are dramatically converted. Consequently, because hope can be found nowhere else, hurting people gather about Jesus begging to experience the touch of his hand or garment. Huge crowds smoother him with hope that they might be healed by the Great Physician. And consider the adoration of those already affected by him. They are passionately in love with him. They do not wish to leave him be. They add to the number of Christ followers.
Yes, Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners, and because he is so friendly, he is one with many fans. Some are moral, and others are immoral. Some are reputable, and many are people of ill-repute. But this they have in common — they are all interested in the Miraculous Friend who meets their felt needs. They love the one who assists them in becoming more healthy, wealthy, prosperous, hilarious, and happy. Jesus is fantastic, and they are his biggest fans.
This is true with many today. Many of us are like these friends. Many of us are happy when Jesus serves us in temporal and material ways. We like and approve of Jesus as he makes us more healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.
However, many of us prove to be like the seed thrown on the shallow and thorny ground in the famous parable of Jesus. We prove to be like these Palestinian groupies. We prove to be like many fair-weather football fans. As long as our man does what we desire, praise is generously bestowed. However, once the man in the arena ceases performing according to our liking, out the window goes our allegiance and applause. And, as will soon be shown, as the weeks go by, our cheers become boos as our friend become our foe.
Notice what happens when the Friend of Sinners does not produce and perform after the liking of the populace.
Jesus Christ is one with many foes.
Despite his friendly compassion, mercy, generosity, work-ethic, teaching, exorcisms, healings, and miracles, Jesus becomes loathed by many.
In this particular chapter (Mark 3), the Pharisees prove to be his greatest enemies. Once they were included in his fan-base, but now they are at odds with him. They do not appreciate how Jesus:
- Presents himself as equal to God
- Grants forgiveness to sinners
- Keeps not their extra-biblical rules of separation from sinners
- Keeps not their extra-biblical fasting rules
- Keeps not their extra-biblical Sabbath rules
- Equates their traditions, rules, and regulations to old wine-skins
Now, the Pharisees are so hostile that they plot, assemble, watch, and compile evidence to use against him in the court of public opinion and the law. They are determined to tarnish his reputation, limit his leadership, see him excommunicated from his church, and see him executed if need be.
Therefore, these “godly elders” engage in a public smear campaign. There is nothing they can do to diminish his miraculous power, so they engage in slander. Before the crowds they proclaim him to be one empowered by the devil. In doing so they blaspheme the Father, Son, and Sacred Spirit. Sadly, they commit the unpardonable sin. And tragically, if they die in this state, they will soon find themselves eternally perishing in God’s Lake of Fire.
So incensed are the Pharisees that they even join ranks with their sworn enemies — the Herodians. They must do anything to see the Jesus Movement come to an end. Weirdly, they who pride themselves on separation, create an anti-Christ allegiance with those who have most compromised and attached themselves to the Roman way of living life. Pharisees and Herodians have nothing in common except for this — they both loath the Lord.
However, the foes of Jesus are not found merely in the ranks of the Pharisees and Herodians. Soon the Sadducees and zealots will also be included in those opposing Jesus. And when the populace gets wind that Jesus is not going to give them the health, wealth, and prosperity they desire, it will only be a matter of time before they start following the lead of their leaders and bellow the chant, “Crucify him; crucify him!”
Why such hatred? How does this happen? How do people once interested in Jesus become so incensed? This happens to us as we prove to be most interested in our position, preferences, practices, pride, power, and possessions than we are with Jesus. As long as God is our “genie in the bottle” whom we long to use and control, all is good. But when he highlights his sovereignty and shows us our place, we prove to be like our father the devil and the younger son in Jesus’ famous parable. We seek to take our God-given tools and toys and do our own thing. Why? Because we hate him.
So, before the friendly Jesus are found fans and foes. But also, in the presence of Jesus, family members are found.
Jesus Christ is one with a family.
As Jesus befriends happy fans and hateful foes alike, his maternal family arrives on the scene. They are really quite cute and pathetic. People are saying Jesus is “out of his mind,” therefore they have come to help Jesus. They are actually on scene to save Jesus from Jesus. Imagine this, they who know Jesus best …
- Aunt Elizabeth and her pregnancy
- Uncle Zechariah and his muting
- Cousin John and his anointing
- Mother Mary and her virgin conception
- Holy Angels and their concert
- Reverend Simeon and his prophecy
- Royal magi and their adoration
- Father Joseph and his Egyptian revelation
- Brother Jesus and his adolescent wisdom in the Temple
- Brother Jesus and his growing wisdom, stature, favor with God and man
- Brother Jesus and his sinlessness
- Rabbi Jesus and his miracles and messages
They reason he must be saved from himself. He cannot continue to minister in such a polarizing manner. He is making too many enemies. His ministry momentum is slowing. He would be wise to morph and capitulate to his culture if he hopes to have a following and a future. And there they are, maternal family members seeking to give a hand to he who needs no hand. Seeking to give a hand to him who holds the whole world in his hand.
However, as they arrive at the place where Jesus is ministering, they hear him make an odd proclamation. Jesus said:
… “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)
According to Jesus, his spiritual family is not to be identified with those who are materialistic fans, murderous foes, or maternal family members. Jesus’ disciples, mothers, and brothers are those who do his will. They are those:
- Transformed from their devilish will
- Enraptured with Jesus and his affection
- Sitting around him while he teaches and loves
- Accepting their responsibility to be his laborers
- Desiring to do his will
Fellow members of the household of Christ, let us have a Gospel-moment together.
We have been created to do the will of God. This was the Cultural Mandate given to us at Creation. We were to obey God’s will and create disciples who did so as well. Later, in different words, God’s will was presented to us at Sinai in the Great Shema and the great law to love our neighbors. Before the cross Jesus taught us his two great commandments. After his resurrection, he reminded us to be obedient disciples making obedient disciples; this is the Great Commission. God is the Sovereign and his will is to be preferred and practiced over all. Friends, this is what we must do to earn and keep our family status. This is the Covenant of Works.
However, none of us can earn or keep our family status. By means of the Covenant of Works will no man find his way into the family home. Why is this? It is because we have been thoroughly corrupted, and we are not perfectly interested in knowing and doing the perfect will of God. We distrust God’s love, discount God’s wisdom, dishonor God’s name, and find ourselves debased. Like the rebels in Psalm 2, we plot against the Lord and his anointed hoping to throw off his shackles and be rid of his will. We are prodigal to the core. We are like Lucifer through and through. Like the Pharisees, we may be religious, but we are not those who love Christ and long to do his glorious will. Though we are incredibly graced and befriended by God, we only prove to be his foes.
Yet, strangely, God loves fair-weather fans and hot-blooded foes like us. Consistently he takes the depraved free-wills of sinful men and women like you and me and sweetly manipulates them. He molds are wills and remakes them. He causes our souls to want differently. He does spiritual surgery within us that results in our having a renewed interest in him and his will. We go from “Oh how I loathe thy law” to “Oh how I love thy law.” His teaching becomes “sweeter than honey.” And friends, this is nothing less than revival, and it is God’s fantastic will to do it as he wills. Powerfully he takes willful sinners like us, who love self, love sin, and loathe God, and transforms us into children who love self a little less, who love sin a little less, and who are learning to love God more and more.
And fantastically, our Friend promises to finishes that which he has begun. By means of his Holy Spirit, he works within us and enables us to more and more desire and do his holy will. And one day, we will only be doers of his will when the world, the flesh, and the devil are no more.
Lost sinner, today, if for the first time you find yourself to be a fair-weather fan or a hot-blooded foe but long to be a part of the family of God, come to Jesus. He turns no one away, for it is the stated will of God to save whosoever bows the knee and confesses their sin. Fly to Jesus; he is the “Friend of Sinners” who takes foes like you and turns them into beloved mothers, brothers, and sisters.
Fallen believer, by all means continue to repent and preach the Gospel to yourselves. Yes, Jesus sees and abhors that fleshly remnant that willfully rebels against his good law. Therefore, it is good and fitting for you to see it and abhor it as well. Repent and run to the Gospel and find fresh affection from the one who died for your willful sins and clothed us with his willful righteousness. Your yesterday sins had no affect on his affection for you. Go talk to him and feel his warm embrace again.
Then, gather around, find a seat, learn from his teaching, and look forward to the next opportunity to do his will. And what will that look like? Do not be misled by the moralism of religious folk about you. Doing God’s will not look much like the Pharisees — those elders who insisted that people keep their external, tight, extra-biblical, traditional, and religious practices. Remember, these men were the hottest foes of Christ, and they were those coming closest to committing the unpardonable sin. No, those who are family Christ are those who look and smell most like Christ. They are his family who are consumed with befriending fair-weather fans and hot-blooded foes and long to see them join the family as well.
Mark 3:1–35 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”