Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
I totally understand sinners gathering around Jesus. Needy people. People who know they needed help… But tax collectors? Gang bangers? Street walkers? Why? To hear a teacher that was confronting the status quo? Maybe. To hear someone down to earth and unashamed giving voice to the injustice they saw up close and personal? Most likely.
But weren’t these tax collectors working for the hated Romans themselves?
Weren’t these Unlovelies, unlovely through and through?
What about Jesus compelled them so? Was it his eyes? His smile? His laughter? Was it the way He looked at them without a hint of judgment? Was it how He reached past the outside dregs and clothed them with, what? … a sense of dignity? How long had it been since they felt that?
Here he was, their own personal ‘hotshot’ – the latest and greatest who loved them. Laughing, joking, hanging with them. Them, the hated ones. Them, the rejected ones.
Jesus wanted to eat dinner with them. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It wasn’t a put on…He was rubbing shoulders. He was spending his time on them. Religious bigwigs were accusing Jesus of being a glutton and a drunk… but, they didn’t know. How could they know? THEY weren’t the ones spending time with him. … they, the Unlovelies, were.
Jesus was Love in action.
Willing to make room at the table.
He was Love in action, knowing the questions would eventually come:
“Why does you care? What does you possibly see in me? Who am I that you could love me like this?
….What must I do to be saved?”
When Jesus found me, I was a feisty, down-and-dirty rebel. I was raw and ugly and desperately alone. I had run from Truth, but Truth Himself found me, right in the mud and thick of too many choices turned wrong.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of my ugliness, nor put off by my hard questions. He didn’t flinch at my fists waiving at his face or turn in disgust at the sight of the maggots that ravaged my heart. He held me through my tantrums and followed me in my bolting.
Some days still I wonder how I ever ended up in this boat whose captain is asleep so peacefully at the stern. But the truth is: someone who called Him Savior took the time to look beyond my brokenness, past the walls, past the fists, past the wounds that stunk of infection and death. One of His own was audacious enough to pray, to reach out their hand and touch the leprosy that riddled my heart. One of his rescued ones helped me onto the boat to meet the One willing to take it all away with his eyes that loved and His word that spoke life, “Come.”
Jesus, I don’t want to see splinters through planks. I don’t want Glories and Alleluias if there are people dying around me that I’ve forgotten how to touch, or have grown too afraid to. I don’t want to forget the pus and infection that once permeated my heart or the questions that waved their fists in angry desperation. I don’t want to forget that You looked in my eyes with love and invited me to dinner.