Jesus’s life on earth was extremely unconventional and he upset the religious order of the day. He regularly spent time with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and some of the outcasts of society. On one occasion in Luke 5, he was spending some time with a group of tax collectors. The Pharisees and Scribes were extremely annoyed. They questioned Jesus’s disciples about their choice of associates. “And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31). I imagine that the religious leaders would have considered it more acceptable, if Jesus spent more time with them.
Why wouldn’t a true prophet, not want to spend time around other men of God, praying and sharing scriptures? Jesus addressed this same criticism with a parable in Luke 15. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it” (Luke 15:4)? Jesus stated that the shepherd would leave the ninety-nine sheep that are safe and go in search of the lost sheep. When he finds the lost sheep, he takes him home and celebrates with his friends, having found the sheep. Jesus compared this to finding lost souls.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Jesus spoke several times in scripture about his assignment being to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24). His commission to the disciples was also to minister to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:6). Jesus knew that the gospel would eventually spread to the Greeks and Gentiles. He was sent to his own people in order to lead them back to God.
The highlight for me in the passages, was that Jesus went beyond convention. He demonstrated for us that our mission goes beyond the church. I appreciate that we need the relationship of other believers to strengthen our faith. We also have an obligation to those who are lost and dying. Who will be a light in the darkness and who will go to bring the message of salvation? Turning our nose up at sinners and ostracising people who aren’t saved isn’t pleasing to God. I am not saying that we should conform to the world. However, we win people out of relationships and genuine love and acceptance.