"The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:30-32)
The religious people of Jesus’ day refused to be seen with sinners. They were, in their eyes, too good for that and the people expected them to behave this way, having been trained by the spirit of religion to do so.
The problem with all this was that all these ideas were completely bogus.
When Jesus walked the earth in His physical body EVERYONE but Jesus was a sinner. However, not everyone was honest about it. Most depended upon appearances to make them look like they were righteous.
Jesus had utter disdain for this idea:
“Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:24-28)
Jesus hated…and still does hate….whenever people act differently than they really are. It is and always will be hypocrisy. Jesus hates that because it keeps people in their sin as their pride doesn’t allow them to present to Him what needs to be cleansed away. Appearances mean more to them….so they stay in bondage.
That breaks the Savior’s heart.
I began this article thinking about Mary Magdalene. Many people think that she had been a prostitute but I can’t find any Scripture to back up that claim. I did a little research and found that it is a teaching that was added to the purity of the Scriptures after 300 A.D. It’s very unlikely that she had been a prostitute; rather, she was probably fairly well off since she was free to follow Jesus wherever He went.
She was, however, afflicted with seven demons prior to being freed from them and their influence.
“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke 8:1-3)
So, even though not a prostitute Mary of Magdala (the town where she was born) did have something evidently wrong with her. When she first encountered Jesus she was plagued with seven demons. I wonder what that looked like.
Elsewhere in the Gospels when a person is identified as being demonized it is very evident that they have demons. Some were running around naked; others were physically violent to others; some caused their human hosts to throw themselves into fire or water. My point for bringing this up is to point out that when a person had a demon he or she most likely looked unlovely in some way and/or manifested behavior that was dangerous or strange.
Mary Magdalene had seven demons and all that went with that in the physical.
How did Jesus handle that? He welcomed her to be with Him.
The Pharisees looked at the people hanging out with Jesus and judged them to be sinners. Upon what did they base that judgement? They based it on appearances and behaviors they could observe. Drunkards looked like drunkards. If there were prostitutes present they dressed and acted like loose women.
Jesus did not allow their initial appearance or behavior affect Him or determine whether or not He would allow them to be near him. Sometimes, especially with the demonized, He would minister deliverance to them when it was called for but for many who ate with Him or followed Him there is no indication that He dealt with their visible behavior or appearance at all.
He knew that sinners needed to be redeemed and that it was their sin or their diseases that caused them to act and look like they did. Jesus is the same God who said this to Samuel when Samuel judged young David’s brother Eliab based on his physical appearance:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Lord looked at Mary Magdalene’s heart….even when she was afflicted with seven demons and saw who she really was inside.
I think He does that with us too.
I believe He wants to do that through us as we minister His Kingdom here and now.
When the Lord Jesus arranges for us to encounter someone on His behalf He knows what that person can be in the Kingdom of God. God has plans for every human.
“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 - NASB)
God knows that it is possible for everyone we encounter to turn toward Him, search for Him, find Him, and draw from Him.
“‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 - NASB)
What the Lord does not need is more Pharisees on the earth. There are already far too many of those both unsaved and saved – within and without various kinds of leadership.
I know all too well how easy it is for me to look at the observable in another person and decide that he is hopeless and unreachable. I hated when I realized I was capable of that. I hate that the gravitational pull of the systems of the earth in men constantly tries to draw us all to that stance.
The reality is that Jesus has, for 2000 years, changed people hearts. He looks past what is observable in the natural and sees what we can be and then, if we allow it, transforms and renews our minds (Romans 12:2).
I believe that the Body of Christ is poised at the brink of experiencing the greatest wave of salvations the earth has seen since the Day of Pentecost. It seems that the world has never been as wicked as it is now (except perhaps just before the Flood) in Noah’s time.
Hopelessness is at an all-time high. Society has given people permission to try any sinful and degrading thing that they can imagine and, praise God, none of it satisfies.
“All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied.” (Ecclesiastes 6:7)
Soul hunger is running rampant among us – even within the Church. Nothing of the earth will satisfy but there is an antidote:
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:8-9)
We cannot allow ourselves to be put off by the behaviors and appearance of those longing to be filled with the Lord’s goodness. We must see people with His eyes – looking past the outside appearance and to their hearts.
We must be heartbroken for their lostness that causes them to do the things they do.
We must believe that God really can change them from the inside out and that, like Mary Magdalene, their behavior will eventually change to match the holiness of their hearts in Christ.
You know….it is VERY significant that of all the people, including Mary who birthed Jesus, He chose Mary Magdalene, a woman freed from seven demons, to be the first person to see Him risen from the dead.
“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” (Mark 16:9)
This truth is a message to us all: when we humble ourselves before the Lord He really does exalt us in His due time (1 Peter 5:6).
You may wish to join me in this prayer:
“Father God, I ask You to give me the ability to see people the way Jesus does. Please let me see others in terms of their potential in Christ and not in terms of what I can see with my earthly eyes right now. Protect me when I am disappointed when others don’t become, in my timing, all they can be in Jesus. Holy Spirit, please cause me to love others in an unusual way – with the heart of Jesus. And, Lord Jesus, please awaken me to those you are drawing to yourself. Thank You, God, for being patient with me. I love that You are refining my soul to look more and more like You all the time. I pray this in the compassionate name of Jesus. Amen.”
I hope this has been encouraging to read.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)