Is Jesus a Friend of Sinners?

“If Jesus isn’t a friend of sinners, then He’s no friend of mine.”

I saw this on Twitter last week. It made me pause.

Lots of things make me pause. My brain hiccups. “Wait, what was that? Does that make sense?”

A reasonable response would take up more space than Twitter allows, so I’ll think it out here.

“Jesus is a friend of sinners” is from both Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. It’s in the passage about how the people didn’t like John the Baptist cuz he was fasting, and they don’t like Jesus cuz He eats with people.

Jesus Christ does not call Himself a friend of sinners. If you note the wording of the verse:

and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.

It was Jesus’ opponents who called Him a friend of sinners, not Jesus Himself. They also called him a drunk. Was their estimation of Jesus correct?

Later, in John 15, Jesus says greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus then goes on to define who His friends are. It’s important for our ears to hear the words of Jesus Christ here:

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

So, here’s the deal. Is Jesus a friend of publicans and sinners? In a general sense, probably. What did Jesus call Judas when he came to betray Him?

Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” He calls Judas His friend. Jesus doesn’t lie. (Although it is a different Greek word!)

There is some truth in calling Jesus a friend of sinners, depending on what you mean by it.

Unfortunately, I think most people mean that being a sinner is ok with Jesus. I can go on sinning cuz Jesus is my friend.

I think that’s the sense of the phrase I saw. If so, I’d throw in some John 15. Then again, maybe they mean it simply as Jesus Christ loved me while I was a sinner.

It just depends. And that’s the problem with most of what people say about the Bible: It depends what they mean. I have little confidence in people to assume they mean something right.

But maybe that’s my problem.

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