Jesus and the Outcasts
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Luke 19:7
In eighth grade, my family moved to a new town. While it was exciting to have a “fresh start” somewhere else, I was also afraid of all the “new” I would be experiencing. The new school scared me the most since I was the new kid on the block with no friends. The worst part was my lunch period. Not knowing anyone, I sat at the “outcast” table with the children others labeled as “weird”, “nerd”, and “goth”. I’m sure that by association, I was given similar labels.
Jesus also frequented the “outcast” table. Throughout scripture, the religious leaders would scoff at the company Jesus kept and the houses he frequented. When Jesus sees the tax collector, Zacchaeus, he invites himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. And those who saw this “grumbled” about his association with a sinner. Tax collectors were greedy scum in the eyes of Jewish communities. Tax collectors preyed on others to make themselves rich. Just as we cast judgement, people on that day did not see what the Lord could see.
Jesus goes to Zacchaeus because he wants to transform his life. Jesus associates with “sinners, outcasts, and the poor” because he wants to change their lives and offer them good news. Because of Jesus’ visit, Zacchaeus decided to make big changes in his life, repent of his cheating ways, and make amends for his sins. Jesus does not abandon us, but seeks to transform us.
As I reflect back on my middle school lunch table, perhaps it wasn’t so bad to be among the “outcasts”. At least none of us had to eat our lunch alone. Perhaps our small fellowship made a difference. When we come across people who are “outcasts”, will we follow Jesus and be present with them? Sometimes a simple “hello” or smile can go a long way.