The Pharisees complained that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. We’ve heard this verse so often that its shock value has been worn away by familiarity. Substitute some other names for “tax collector” and “sinner.” Who does Jesus eat with today that really gets your goat, who you wouldn’t dream of breaking bread with? Are they members of a different political party than yours? People whose sexuality you don’t approve of? People of another faith or nationality? What if you saw Jesus eating in a fancy New York restaurant with that sort of person? Would that make you doubt Jesus? Would that shake up your faith? That’s what the Pharisees felt.
There are many astonishing images in the New Testament: camels flying through the eye of a needle, a handful of loaves and fishes feeding thousands, the temple curtain ripping top to bottom in one dramatic moment. But perhaps nothing is as surprising—as amazing—as the person of Jesus and the message he brings, even today.
Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent. This message is adapted from “Jesus, a Troublemaker,” written by Kate Elliott in the October 1996 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.