Jesus: The Friend of Tax Collectors and Sinners

Posted on December 8, 2011

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I’ve had something I’ve been pondering for a while now. I began thinking about this a few months after I had begun to leave legalism behind me. So I’ve decided to write about it.

Recently I saw some pictures that an artist had created of modern depictions of some of our favorite Gospel stories; like Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus, the Last Supper, and the attempted stoning of the Adultress Woman (you can see these photos below).

I must admit, upon first impression I was slightly offended. The women that were used in the pictures were modern-day prostitutes. The men at the Last Supper table were what some would call “questionable.” In that photo you see a wide variety of misfits: men and women that typical society would reject…and some that I’m sure many churches would try to change or avoid (sadly).

But why was I offended? Is it because I can handle the fact that Jesus spent a majority of His time and ministry with the misfits of that time, but I can’t handle that He would hang out with the misfit of our time? But aren’t they the same exact thing? Yes, of course they are.

It is a stunning fact to learn that most that call on the name of Jesus regularly reject those who we deem as “questionable,” “sinful,” or “misfits.” Many, including myself, have idealogicalized the Gospels. Many will say such statements like, “Yes, Jesus hung out with fisherman, prostitutes, and tax collectors. The Pharisees saw them as ‘sinners’ but that’s why Jesus came; to save them!” But when those same “sinners” arrive at the front door of our lives, of our daily routines and outings, we too, like the Pharisees, reject them. Please bear with me, for I wouldn’t be talking this way if I wasn’t guilty of the same behavior myself.

Jesus Christ came for men and women that are in need of a physician. He says so Himself that He didn’t come for the healthy, the righteous, or the clean. He came for the sick, the sinner, and the unclean (Mark 2:17).

When we claim to be righteous in and of ourselves, we are saying we have no need of Jesus. When we reject the very people who Christ came for, we reject Him. When we do all we can as Christians to avoid such people, we are doing all we can to avoid the atoning work of Jesus Christ Himself.

You may disagree and say that God is angry with the sin and corruption of the world. I will not try to argue with that. For Scripture is quite clear that God hates iniquity (look what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah). But if not for Jesus, you and I would suffer the same fate. We are no different from they. The Gospel testifies to this and the grace and mercy that God has freely given in Christ testifies all the more to this.

So what’s my point? It is this: let us not so easily reject the rejected. Let us not so easily try to avoid our calling to reach out to these people (though, in reality, they are just like us) by using Scripture and our own ideology to condemn them.

Take a few minutes to behold the pictures below. I have left out a few of them due to the graphic nature of some. But if you get a chance, check out the artist’s full gallery (disclaimer: some of his other pieces of art aren’t so “spiritual”. In fact, some are down right graphic. So, if you have a weak stomach, or don’t wish to view some things that are disagreeable, please don’t view the gallery). Also, I don’t think Jesus really looked like that. He wasn’t an American, He was a Jew.

All artwork found at the LaChapelle Studio at http://www.lachapellestudio.com/editorial/i-d_3/