by Don Watson
Mark Hall, lead singer for Casting Crowns, paints one of the most poignant pictures of Christ in his recent #7 hit, Jesus, Friend of Sinners. However, while portraying Jesus as the sinner's friend, the song exposes Christ's followers as cutting "down people in your name" and admitting "Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against, when we judge the wounded." The song pleads with Jesus to "Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers," and "put down our signs, cross over the lines and love like You did." Amazing lyrics! Cuts deep!
The problem with those of us who are followers of Jesus is that we do not love like He did. In Jesus day, the non-religious flocked around Him. He did not merely tolerate them – He truly loved them so much that they constantly sought Him out – to the point that the religious (Pharisees and teachers of the law) accused Him of being a glutton and drunkard – a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). In Luke 15 Jesus tells 3 stories about lost people – sinners. But these parables are not so much aimed at "sinners" as they are the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who again are accusing Jesus of "welcoming sinners and eating with them (Luke 15:34)."
First Jesus tells His famous story of "the one lost sheep." The Shepherd, obviously Jesus in the story, leaves the ninety and nine sheep who were good and faithfully stayed within the safety of the fold, and goes out into the night and rescues (saves) the one lost sheep. If we're not careful, we can end the story right there with Jesus going out to save the really bad people. But Jesus continues, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
The implication is obvious; Jesus is not suggesting that the Pharisees and teachers of the law (The ninety and nine) are "righteous" and "do not need to repent." THEY think they are righteous and don't need to repent. No doubt about it – there
The good news, of course, that Pharisees do not understand, is that Jesus is the Friend of sinners. They are clueless to the fact that every man is blind from birth – we don't nor ever will begin to know the full extent of our sinfulness, but every man has been saved from the power of sin and its condemnation by God's amazing love and grace toward the human race – God is a Friend of sinners.
Isaiah 29 and 35 declare the Messiah would open the eyes of the blind and they would see the goodness of God and His salvation. In John 9 Jesus opens the eyes of a man born blind and fulfills that Messianic prophecy. Opening our eyes is such an important part to our salvation from sin.
The story begins with the disciples asking Jesus who sinned, this man or his parents. The question exposes the horrendous teaching in those days that a birth defect is God's punishment for some sin you committed in the womb or some sin your parents committed before you were born.
Jesus doesn't hesitate, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
Every one of us is blind from birth and infected with the sinfulness of our father, Adam. We are all born broken and defective. However, like Jesus said, none of that is our fault or our parents fault. (John 9:1-2) Whatever our weakness, or addiction, or sin, we are that way "so that the works of God might be displayed in [us]." (John 9:3) God didn't cause it, but everything that happens to us, He will use to bless us and demonstrate His love for our fallen race.
There are certain weaknesses and sins that I was born with that have been extremely hurtful to me and many people around me, but Jesus wants me to know that I am not a sinner because of the terrible sins I commit, I am a sinner and disqualified from any right to life because I was born with this fallen nature that can do nothing else but sin. That is not my fault and God is not punishing me because of my sins. On the contrary, Jesus has redeemed me, paid for my sin and if I will allow it, He will use my weakness, my defects, my mistakes, and my blindness (If you please) "so that the works of God might be displayed in me – even broken as I am. And I have seen it over and over again. I meet people who struggle with the same sins I do, stumble because of the same weaknesses that I have, and God uses me to give them hope and remind them of God's love, acceptance, and limitless power. I tell them that "He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it."
Next, in the story, Jesus says something that seems strange, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Jesus knew that this miracle was going to catapult Him into the disfavor of the Pharisees and take Him to the cross. To the Pharisees, this sealed their case that Jesus could not be the Messiah. They were blind to a Messiah that would be a Friend to sinners. [Remember when Mary washed Jesus feet? Simon the Pharisee and host to this most important banquet, thought to Himself, "If this man were a prophet, He would know what manner of sinner this woman was. He was blind to who God was.] Yet in spite of the fact that Jesus knew what healing this man would cause, He heals him anyway. This is why Jesus had come – to open the eyes of people, dispel darkness and reveal the light of who God really was.
Who are the sinners today? The really bad people – the Mary's and Blind men from birth. Probably the homeless, homosexuals sick with aids, prostitutes, Muslims, some other race, denomination, political party, or radical religion, people who have list of sins we don't approve of, the woman who divorced you, or the man who molested your little girl. Jesus was friends with these kinds of people. They were the ones who loved to hang out with Jesus. See why some people disapproved and even hated Jesus? The reason we feel justified hating some people and getting angry with people who do, is that we truly don't believe we're sinners – or at least not as bad as "they" are. The reason we have a problem forgiving some folks is that we don't see ourselves needing the same amount of forgiveness they do. But remember these were the "sinners and tax collectors" – that means the worst of the worst. Jesus is the friend of the really bad sinners. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that Jesus dies for the ungodly "at just the right time, while we were powerless, and while we were sinners." And John declares, "Herein is love, not that we love Him, but that He first loved us." But we are blind to our sinfulness. We simply don't believe that we are no better than the worst of sinners.
In fact, we know the cost of such an idea. I mean, Jesus was crucified because He advocated and set up a Kingdom that accepted people like Mary, Matthew, and Zacchaeus. He lowered the standard. He was soft on sin. I mean, look who flocks after Him – the rabble, the people no decent, Godly man would be caught dead with. Of course, 1000's follow Him – they can do whatever they want and still think they're going to be saved, but they'll be surprised when God sets up His kingdom!
Real Godly love is extremely radical and dangerous. It divides us and people can get very angry when they are challenged by God to love unconditionally. So we close our eyes to the light – we prefer the darkness and blindness sets in. The man born blind in our story actually gets excommunicated – thrown out of the temple. Do you realize what that meant to most Jews – no priest, no sacrifice, no forgiveness, no salvation. That's why Jesus comes to Him and reveals to Him that He is indeed the Messiah (John 9:35-38), He IS salvation. It doesn't rest in the authority of men, in buildings, or in participating in the services of the "right church." Salvation comes via a person – Jesus Christ the Son of God. And the scriptures say that this man Worshiped Jesus – The real temple, the real God.
In John 9:39-41 Jesus says, [a] "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."
We are all blind from birth. Some of us think we see everybody's sins perfectly, but we can't see our own, because we won't acknowledge our blindness, because we think we see everything about everybody, OUR guilt remains. In other words, we continue to suffer for sins that Jesus could heal us of, but we refuse to acknowledge them so we stay blind. But to those of us who know we are indeed blind from birth, Jesus comes and judges us – He opens our eyes and shows us our sinfulness but also He opens our eyes so we see His love for us as sinners.
So if Jesus is the Friend of sinners, let's pray that God will open our eyes Lord so we can know the depth of our sin.
Remember when Mary poured the Spikenard on Jesus feet out of love and devotion. Jesus asked Simon, who would love the Master more, the one who owed Him little or the one who owed Him much. And Simon replied. "I suppose the one who owed Him much."
Do you see why Jesus opening your eyes to see your sinfulness is so important and powerful? Because the more He shows you of your sin, the more you know you are forgiven, and the more you know how much you are loved. Here is the power of recognizing your blindness and pleading with Jesus to remove it.