- Pastor Ralph
I grew up in a neighbourhood where, for the most part, we went by nicknames. It seemed to be part of the culture. Many of the names were abbreviated last names but many were names that identified something about that person. It is like Barnabas, his name identified a quality or characteristic about him that displayed his actions and character – “son of encouragement.”
In Matthew chapter eleven, we read about two names or titles that were attached to John and his cousin Jesus. In talking to the crowd, Jesus addresses what some people were saying about Himself and John, “For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Matthew 11:18-19 (NLT)
This was a direct reply to the criticism of the Pharisees. People were expecting Jesus to live a routine that exhibited “rigid abstinence and a Spartan lifestyle” (MacArthur p. 1489). John did that and they still accused him of being “demon possessed.” To me, what really strikes home is the accusation that Jesus was a friend of “tax collectors and other sinners.” The NIV says “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” To me, that is a title or nickname that is precious and life giving and describes a Saviour that lives in my world. He is a friend who does not sin but truly understands my situation.
It tells me that Jesus is a friend who comes into my world and meets me where I am. He is a friend that loves me and is infinitely interested in me. He is a friend who listens to me, identifies with me and wants the very best for me. In salvation, in dying for me, He offers me that. He has come that my sins might be forgiven and my life transformed. It is a simple reply of faith or trust in Him that sets me free but the results are profound. His work has just begun! How???
He is a friend who will “never leave me or forsake me.” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV) He is a friend who loves me unconditionally – who sticks by my side (Proverbs 18:24 ESV) In fact, He is a friend willing to lay down His life for me. (John 15:13 ESV) He is a friend who will walk with me each step of the way and who will pour into me, by the Holy Spirit, His very life to help me grow. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) He is a friend who will truly listen – who will come to my aid and always have my back. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV) “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17 NIV) and that friend is Jesus!
A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following: “One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is inviolable.” “One who understands our silence.” “A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.” “A watch that beats true for all time and never runs down.” The winning definition read: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
My friends that is Jesus! He is a friend for all time – all seasons and all situations. Thank God He is a “friend of sinners!”
Have a great week and remember how much Jesus loves you – Pastor Ralph