Jesus was often criticized for eating and having contact with sinners. The religious leaders were his primary critics. John the Baptist was rejected by them because he was this wild, crazy man living in the wilderness like Elijah, and fasting and abstaining from drink. In Luke 7:34, Jesus confronts the religious leaders by contrasting their rejection of Him with their rejection of John. It says, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Yes, Jesus eats with sinners and he wasn’t particular regarding what “kind” of sinner he reclined at table with. In verse 36 we read, “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.” Jesus accepts invitations from anyone. You see, everyone is a “sinner.” Paul makes that insight known in his letter to the Romans when he says, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s standards” (Romans 3:23).

To get into the context a little more when we consider Jesus’ dinner with Simon the Pharisee, look at Luke 7:35. Jesus seems to be quoting from the book of Proverbs when it talks about “wisdom” calling out to her children. The verse immediately preceding the meal with Simon says, “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Does Luke expect some connection between this obscure statement and what follows?  In Proverbs chapters 5-7 we learn about the morally loose woman who calls from the street for the young men passing by. She corrupts their moral standing in the community. Her lips drip honey but bring only disgrace. Then in Proverbs chapter 8 we see wisdom crying out to her children who know sin when they see it. They are not deceived by the temptress. Children of wisdom see sin for what it is and acknowledge it as such. The deceived are blinded by its subtle ways and fall prey to its wiles.

Now Luke presents us with an episode of a self-righteous pharisee who saw himself as “wise” and a woman of the street who saw the depths of her sinfulness. But going even deeper into Luke’s context we see that Jesus made it clear concerning his mission. Luke writes in Luke 5:31-32, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” Arnold says it right, “The self-righteous Pharisees see no need to repent because they don’t think they have done anything wrong. They respond not with love, but with indifference and rejection to God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus.”[1] Towards the end of his life, Paul writes to his young disciple Timothy about an attitude that is worthy of acceptance by everyone. I think that means it should be seen by everyone as true of themselves. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 388.