Luke 15:2 – And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Jesus is soundly condemned for “receiving” sinner and for “eating” with them. This complaint of the Pharisees and scribes highlights one of their premiere misunderstandings. They did not consider themselves sinners, at least not sinners like other men. They did not realize that while their sins may be different, they were like all men sinners. If they received each other, then they were receiving sinners. If they ate with each other then they were eating with sinners. This was a fundamental truth that they did not acknowledge.
It seems that receiving sinners could be either good or bad. Where there is social interaction the receiving of sinners cannot legitimately be questioned. If sinners are being received to justify their sin, that is a bad thing. If sinners are being received to bring them to repentance, that is a good thing.
The Pharisees and scribes in complaining against Jesus were actually condemning themselves. They received each other in an elite circle of companionship that fed their misunderstanding that they were not sinners like other men.
Jesus was receiving sinners, even to the degree that he was eating with them. The question becomes for what purpose was Jesus receiving sinners?
The rest of the chapter answers the question. It consists of a triad of parables, relating to a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.
After the parable of the lost sheep Jesus makes his application by saying in verse seven, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
After the parable of the lost coin Jesus makes his application by saying in verse ten, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
At the conclusion of the parable relating to the lost son we find the father of the parable saying to the bitter son in verse thirty-two, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” When you read the parable it is readily discovered that the lost son repented and that was the occasion of the rejoicing.
Jesus received sinners to call them to repentance and this is a good thing.
Jesus received this sinner and called him to repentance almost 40 years ago, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”