Isn't it fascinating to consider the different people Jesus met during His earthly ministry? In today's time, who would be our Zaccheus, the tax collector? Who would be the 'Sinful Woman' with the alabaster jar? And where would we find the man tormented by so many demons that we remember him as "Legion"? Because we are told there is nothing new under the sun, we can assume that the sins we encounter in our world today were present in some form or fashion during Jesus' ministry days. We don't have to pioneer life apart from God when we determine whether or not gay marriage is okay or whether cheating on the I.R.S. is acceptable. God's Word gives us clear principles which guide us today in our modern moral challenges. We are not more sophisticated, wise or tolerant now than they were thousands of years ago.
So, when we accept others' sins as being right and we do not point our loved ones to the Holy God who delivers us from our transgressions, we are not following in Jesus' footsteps. I want to make this point clear because so many churches and Christians are accepting things that are an abomination to God and they are doing it in the name of loving others as Jesus did.
This is the pattern of Jesus, though, during His earthly ministry:
- He saw the need. And when Jesus saw the person in need, He was moved with compassion and love. That is a glorious response, isn't it? A divine one. I need to ask for much of that kind of love because my flesh tends toward frustration, judgment and anger.
- He established a relationship. Jesus didn't keep His ministry to the boats or the mountainside where there was plenty of distance between Himself and those sinners. No, He got right in their lives and had dinner with them, got close enough to them to have fragrant oil poured upon Him, stayed at their houses, you name it.
- His holiness was evident for all to see. What do I mean by this? I think this is really the most important part of this whole pattern, so I hope you really hear this. The response of every single outcast that Jesus encountered was a recognition of his or her sin. And, after that recognition came a change. Here are some examples:
Zacchaeus declares that he will repay fourfold the wages he has stolen as a tax collector. His generosity blossomed, too, as he determined to give half his goods to the poor.
The Sinful Woman, whose name is unknown, weeps and weeps at Jesus' feet and anoints Him with fragrant oil. Jesus, seeing her repentant heart, proclaims her sins forgiven. She understood her sin. She craved forgiveness. It was freely given.
Married five times before and living with her current boyfriend, a Samaritan woman is convicted of her sin when she meets Jesus. She was so excited about her new-found freedom that she ran and told her whole village!
Are we seeing the need of sinners around us? Are we moved with compassion for them? Note, this is compassion for them to be saved from the devil's bondage of them, not just feeling sorry for them because they don't have the same privileges that everybody else seems to have. Finally, as we befriend others who are struggling and do not know Jesus yet, are we pointing them to Him? This last and very critical part must not be overlooked because we don't believe that God can change them. We must introduce them to the Savior who will free them from slavery to sin. This must be an ongoing theme in our relationship with them because otherwise when will we bring Him up? Why hold off the remedy when the patient is sick now?
In our opportunities, may we not be lax in our awesome privilege to point a sinner to the Redeemer, Christ. He is their only hope for salvation and for freedom from guilt. In showing them Jesus, may we see them respond with the life-change that we read about with Zacchaeus and others in the Bible.
Of course, there is a warning here too. Some may respond like the rich, young ruler. If their hearts are not soft and contrite, then they will reject the One who saves. Be faithful, though, and clearly show them Jesus. Perhaps the greatest warning is to not become like the Pharisees and others who were "well", "righteous" and wouldn't associate with those who were 'obviously' sick and horrible creatures. We must never see other people like this. When others are marring the image of God, may we see their tremendous need for knowing Christ and be faithful to reveal Him. But, it is never loving to befriend them and leave out the most important part. We must clearly proclaim: Christ has come to save sick sinners, like you and like me.
May we see His holiness and have no other response but laying down our lives in worship, obeying Him through a deep love and gratitude and praising His name above all other names.