I can’t help returning from time to time to consideration of the warm appeal which characterized our Lord. Common folk heard Him gladly. People who were well known in the community for their sinful excesses sought Jesus out and wanted to be with Him…wanted to listen to Him…wanted to eat with Him. What was it about Him that drew them? There were plenty of other religious types around that those same people avoided like the plague…but not Jesus. What should we learn from this?
It wasn’t holiness that people wanted to avoid. For Jesus was the holiest of all, yet they were drawn to Him. His sinless purity did not put them off. His religiosity didn’t drive a wedge between Him and them, for He prayed, He assembled every sabbath, He read the Bible and He preached. But none of this proved to be a turn-off to those so overcome by sin.
So what was the secret? Why did sinners seek Him out? I think the answer lies in both His purpose and His method. Helping was His purpose and loving was His method. Jesus didn’t “put on airs” with people. He didn’t pursue a certain demographic. He was after people. He wasn’t looking for wealthy, young professionals with young families in order to create a movement with the finances and energy level to sustain itself. He simply looked for the lost in order to bring them home. He was one of them, and He was “real” about it. Jesus didn’t use “stained-glass” language which ordinary people couldn’t understand. He just spoke to their hearts. He came into the world to help sinners. And He got right to it. “…I am among you as one who serves…” He said (Luke 22:27b). He looked into their hearts…saw their rank evil…and yet, or even because of that, had compassion on them. He knew what should have been. He could see what might have been. And He believed in what could yet be. As I consider this truth about Jesus, I am forced to admit my distance from Him, which explains my distance from other sinners. Jesus knew their sin and didn’t turn away in shock or revulsion. No…He stayed at it. He loved them and wanted better for them. He “received them.” And in His loving, gracious reception of sinners they made a wonderful discovery. They began to look at themselves through His eyes. Because of Him, they dared to believe that they could be better…do better…that maybe they, too, could escape the “death” that had its icy fingers wrapped around their hearts and find real life. Being with Jesus created an appetite within them to always want to be with Him…whether He was on the highways and by-ways lifting, comforting, cleaning, feeding, hugging, freeing, teaching, and listening…or in the garden praying…or in the synagogues worshipping. They felt welcomed, because they were. They felt hope come alive inside them. A small flame of faith began to flicker in their hearts as they listened to Him. They never knew religion could be like this…that it could mean having an actual relationship with God…one in which you really walked and talked, lived, loved and served in His presence…with Him…day by day and night to night. No…God, in the flesh, did not make people feel uncomfortable, or unacceptable or unwanted. Now what about the Christian in the church building? What about me?