Sinners, Prostitutes, and Tax-Collectors

I am going to ask you to remember why Jesus was crucified. I don’t mean the spiritual dynamics or the plan of God from the foundations of the world. I am thinking about the religious officials or the leaders of the Jews who actually put Jesus to death. One of the most horrendous acts in history was the crucifixion of the Son of God. God’s plan was to reveal Himself to the world by sending His Son into the world. We had an opportunity to actually see God obviously without the uncomfortable and actually dangerous cloud of glory. I know, I know. Most of the ancient pictures and depictions of Jesus show a halo or cloud of brightness around the figure of Jesus. Even today He is pictured in white with a certain Hollywood glow about the actor portraying the part.

But in reality, this would not fit in with the plan of God at all. Jesus appeared like any other person. John the Baptist had to be shown spiritually that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.” Even then, when the tide of human events turned and John was in prison, he sent his disciples to inquire if Jesus was the one. So . . . Jesus did not draw attention to Himself. He was considered in His hometown of Nazareth to be the carpenter. Jesus had lived 30 years of His life in an unremarkable and normal way.

Then Jesus submitted to baptism by John the Baptist. In some accounts John reacted to Jesus’ request by declaring that he (John) needed to be baptized by Jesus and not the other way around. Jesus knew He was following the prompting of His Father and assured John that it was what God wanted. He was joining into the crowd being baptized and announcing that He was one of them. He was completing the process of incarnation; of becoming fully a human being; by identifying with the human race.

Jesus then spent 40 days without eating in the desert. We have spoken of this before. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit will always bring a period of testing so that the Holy Spirit can empower us. What I am writing about today is really about the end of the story. Jesus’ ministry progressed until He was ministering to vast crowds. We have a difficult time getting this picture. Even movie scenes of crowded Oriental marketplaces do not give us a good vision of the “multitudes.” Packed like sardines would be a way of somewhat describing the desperate crowds trying to just touch Jesus.

This popularity made the leaders of the Jews; the Sadducees who were the High Priests; and the Pharisees who considered themselves experts in the Law; very jealous. The most vexing thing was that Jesus actually liked the crowds. Jesus actually had compassion on them. He healed them. He touched them. He talked to them. He taught them. And the multitudes loved Him.

This drove the Jewish leaders crazy. They could not understand how Jesus could love this accursed mob. That is what the religious hypocrites considered the multitude. As far as they were concerned they were headed to heaven; or in the case of the Sadducees, enjoying all the luxury they could ever have; and the accursed mob were doomed. They could not understand Jesus as He hung out with sinners, prostitutes, and tax-collectors. When they brought a woman to Him caught in the very act of adultery, they were thwarted and stymied when Jesus forced them to admit that they, too, were sinners.

This is why they crucified Him. Jesus was in the process of destroying their religious way of life. He is still in the process of destroying the religious way of life. Jesus is changing the world through His followers. But His plan is in agreement with His Father’s plan and that is to change our way of life both personally and corporately to the way of love. His last command was to love one another. Do we need to say any more than that? Is there anything that needs to be explained about loving another human being? The power of the Holy Spirit is to lead us and guide us into the way of love. The Holy Spirit is teaching us to live like Jesus. We are to love sinners, prostitutes, and tax-collectors.