It's been said that the purpose of Jesus coming to this Earth was not to preach the gospel so much as it was to be the gospel. Chew on that for awhile. Jesus is the good news of God's saving grace. The human response to what Jesus did should be that of faith in the most comprehensive sense (i.e., trust and obey). To encourage that response, preaching and teaching are needed. That's the way it was in the first century and that's the way it still is today!
When I think about our preaching and teaching in the local community where I live, I often feel that we are failing. Where is the explosion of evangelism that existed in the first century? Where is the urgency and passion to spread the message? I know we are doing some good things in the Lord's kingdom, but I'm far from satisfied. Is there anything that we can do to trigger an explosion of evangelism among us today? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I think one of the keys is striving to understand how Jesus treated the lost. If we can learn how Jesus acted toward the lost and if we are willing to do likewise, maybe we can light an evangelistic fire like few of us have seen before.
Well, Stephen, how did our Savior treat lost people? How did Jesus deal with people who were sinners (i.e., outside the body of spiritual fellowship)? Coil had five main points in his lesson, and that is what I want to start focusing upon at this time. Coil admitted in his lesson that once he began studying how Jesus treated the lost he became frightened, realizing he had not been treating people as Jesus did. I must confess that I feel the same way about some of these points--frightened with my own shortcomings and failures in this area.
1. JESUS TREATED LOST PEOPLE AS FRIENDS, NOT ENEMIES.
A great example of this can be seen in Luke 7 - "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (7:34). Here Jesus sums up one of the charges made against him by the Pharisees and Sadducees. I do not believe Jesus was a gluttonous man or a drunkard. I do believe the foundation for this charge was based upon the fact that He associated with people who were not in the inner fellowship of the Jews. Jesus associated with people who were well-known as "sinners". Of course, everyone is a sinner (cf. Rom. 3:23), but the Jews--like many today--looked upon some sinners as worse than others. Beginning in 7:36, Luke gives an account that illustrates the nature of the accusation that is made.
It appears that Jesus was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee. Simon was a religious leader and was among those who would have been in the "approved group" among the Jews. Although Simon is curious and not hostile, he doesn't want to compromise himself before his peers so his hospitality and kindness toward Jesus is limited. I believe Simon invited Jesus over to try to ascertain if He really was a prophet gifted with power from God.
To better understand what happens at Simon's house, a little background is helpful. We know that Moses gave the 10 commandments and approximately 600 other laws in the Old Testament. The scribes added another 1500 or so laws to these and built a kind of hedge of tradition around the law. The leadership of the Jews claimed they were living up to God's expectations. They believed they were either perfect or nearly perfect--but they were deluded (cf. Matt. 23 where Jesus rebuked them severely)! They could not perfectly keep the laws they were under and there is a sense in which we have it more difficult today (e.g., Matt. 5:28).
Peter admitted in Acts 15:10 that the Jews were unable to keep the law they were under perfectly; the same is true for Christians today under the law of Christ (cf. Gal. 6:2; I John 1:8). Jesus came to be the gospel, to be the grace of God, to make up what we lack. We cannot keep the New Testament perfectly and so we need to trust in God and His grace. If man could be saved by keeping the law perfectly, then there was no point in Jesus' death on the cross. If righteousness and eternal life can be achieved by keeping laws, then Christ died in vain (cf. Gal. 2:21).
Now, back to Luke 7. Concerning Simon, his actions show that he believed himself to be perfect or almost perfect. He invited Jesus over for this dinner but did not treat him courteously. When a guest would visit (particularly a distinguished one), it was customary to kiss his cheek, provide anointing oil for his head, and wash his feet with water. Simon gave Jesus none of these social courtesies. Simon purposefully snubbed our Lord a bit socially, and it was because he (and the others) thought they were superior. They didn't approve of how Jesus treated the lost.
We'll continue discussing this point in our next lesson.