2484. The Very Friend You Need

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No. 2484-42:457. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, August 22, 1886, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, September 27, 1896.

A friend of tax collectors and sinners. {Lu 7:34}

1. This title was given to our Divine Lord and Master by those who were disposed to criticize him, and were unwilling to be convinced that he was the Messiah. John the Baptist’s self-denial was pushed much too far for them. They could not understand a man wearing a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and whose food was locusts and wild honey. The man was either too good for this world, or he was not in his right mind. “He has a demon,” they said, as they turned away from him. But they could not say this of the Saviour, for he ate and drank as others ate and drank, and made no difficulty at all about food and drink; so they said of him, “He is a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” So, our text comes to us as the language of certain gentry who said even of the Saviour that they could not listen to him because he seemed to be a man who went in and out with ordinary people, and did not distinguish himself by being an ascetic. I also heard a man say, some time ago, that he could not listen to a certain preacher because, unhappily for him, he happened to be very stout; he could profit by the ministry of a man who was very thin, for the objector thought he looked more saintly. Well, it may be so with some people; but, for my part, if anyone can do me good, whether he is stout or thin, I shall make no question about that matter; whether he is an inch or two shorter or taller, will not be a question for me to consider. I think that I should never demur to the consulting of an eminent physician because he happened to have black hair, or light hair, or any peculiarity of that kind; yet, so indifferent are people often about their soul affairs, that the smallest trifle in a service, the tiniest accidental thing, will often keep them from listening to the most weighty truths that concern their immortal interests.

2. Now let us come to this title of our Master; they called him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” It is somewhat noticeable that he quotes this saying himself. Probably neither Matthew, nor Mark, nor Luke, nor John would have told us that they called Jesus “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” if he had not repeated it himself. It is clear from this fact that he was not in the least ashamed of the title. He repeats it almost as if he enjoyed it, as if he took the title home to himself, and wore it as some distinction which he was glad to have. He himself says it, and he takes care to say it again, and to tell both Matthew and Luke to record it, that he was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” What he was not ashamed to repeat, we are not ashamed to think of at this service. So, first of all, let us notice that this saying, in the sense in which they meant it, was not true. But, secondly, in a higher and better sense than they understood it, it was true. When we have thought over these two points, we will, in the third place, ask each other, “Since it is true that Christ is a friend of tax collectors and sinners, what then?”

3. I. First, then, IN THE SENSE IN WHICH THEY MEANT IT, THIS SAYING WAS NOT TRUE.

4. The Lord Jesus Christ was not “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense of being in the least like them. Our proverb says, “A man is known by the company he keeps,” but you could not have known the Lord Jesus Christ by the company he kept. It would be strictly true to say of him that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” that even when he was present with them, and received them, and ate with them, yet still there was a grave distinction between him and them, so that you could never consider him to be of the same class with them. No, brethren, his bitterest enemies could not truly lay any sin to his charge; they had to hire false witnesses to make up an accusation against him, and when they had made it up, there was really nothing in it. The keen-eyed prince of this world, Satan himself, could find nothing sinful in him, and the princes of this world, whose eyes, through their malice, had become like the eyes of lynxes, yet could not discover anything for which they could blame him. He was not like them, he was not like any sinner, he was not like the drunkard, he was not like the adulterer, he was not like the thief, nor was he in the least like the hypocritical Pharisee, who, with all his attempts to appear righteous, was not really like the Saviour. So, Christ was not “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense of being like them.

5. And, in the second place, he was not “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense of aiding or abetting them in evil. He never said a single word that could encourage any man to sin. He never did a single act by which any man would have said that he was helped to be a transgressor. I do not suppose that any other man ever lived who could be truthfully said to be harmless, for all of us do some harm even if unconsciously. Our example, either in its defects or in its excesses, must be injurious to someone. Even those who endeavour to keep their example as pure, and clean, and worthy of imitation as possible, yet perhaps sometimes lose their temper, or occasionally speak unadvisedly with their lips, or now and then forget what they ought to have remembered, and so incidentally do harm; but that our Lord Jesus Christ never did. No one among us here was ever led by the example of Christ to do harm. That example is matchless in this respect that, if we copied it as far as it is imitable, we should only have copied perfection, and followed on after the highest virtue. There may be some who join with tax collectors and sinners, so eating and drinking with them as to encourage gluttony and drunkenness, so singing and laughing with them as to multiply immorality and uncleanness; but this could never be said of the Saviour. He was not like them, nor did he aid them; so he was not, in that sense, a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

6. And, furthermore, he never uttered principles which would encourage people in sin, or which would help their consciences to be quiet while they indulged their vices. Alas! in modern times, there have been some who, even from the pulpit, have taught men that sin is a trifle, and with regard to the future state, they have either denied its existence, or have tried to make it so pleasant to the ungodly, that it seems, if you followed the preacher’s leading, you might as well die impenitent as fall asleep a believer in Jesus. They have either denied that there is any wrath to come, or they have smoothed it over, and made the descent to the pit to be pleasant to men. This is setting a trap to catch men’s souls; but Christ did not do so. Such as he loved the sinner, he denounced his sin, and proclaimed the judgment to come in words most striking and terrible. Where can you find, in all the books you may read — even in the writings of those medieval preachers who are so generally condemned, or in the works of those old-fashioned Puritan preachers who are so sneered at nowadays, — words that equal in their crash of terror the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ? Oh sirs, if you do not care to read the Epistles, read the records of the four Evangelists, and note what Jesus said; he never made the way of sin to appear pleasant, nor tried to minimize the dread result of iniquity. No, he was not in that sense “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” He was a better friend to them than he would have been if he had acted like that. He dealt more honestly with them, and did not smooth their path with flatteries.

7. And once again, Jesus was not “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense that he ever courted popularity among them. Many of them would have taken him by force, and made him a king, but he hid himself from them. They “drew near to him in order to hear him,” but he never said a single syllable to pander to their depraved tastes, or to ease them in their consciences while continuing in their sins. No, he did not seek them, but they sought him. He endeavoured to win their souls, but not to win their applause. I heard of one who, at the election, promoted himself as “the friend of the working man.” I daresay the working man would find it difficult to discover any particular friendship in him now that he has become a Member of Parliament. It is very easy to profess to be a friend of anyone when there is something to be gained by it; but our Lord and Saviour had nothing to gain from those he met while here on earth. He had everything to give to them, and he gave all that he had, yes, and himself also; but he never cajoled them, or sought their friendship, so that he might win their acclamations. So it was not true that he went about among men trying to ingratiate himself with the lowest of the low and the vilest of the vile. Nothing of the kind; Christ always stands out before us as the advocate and pattern of everything that is pure, and true, and right, and noble, so that, in the sense intended by these critics, he was not “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

8. II. But now, dear friends, I have a much more pleasant matter to speak of when I say that, IN A HIGHER AND BETTER SENSE, THIS SAYING WAS TRUE, and it is still true that Jesus Christ is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

9. He was, first of all, a most hearty and affectionate friend to guilty men. His whole soul was filled with love for men while they were still sinners and his enemies. It was this that made him leave his Father’s court, and all the royalties of heaven, to come and be born in a stable, and laid in a manger, and to labour in a carpenter’s shop, and to become the poorest of the poor, and the most despised and rejected of men. All this was because he loved men, not only as men, but as guilty men. Their guilt aroused his pity, for he knew the misery which lies concealed behind the apparent pleasure of sin; and to deliver guilty men from the consequences of their sin, he came to live where he could not have a place to lay his head, where at the last he did not even have a garment with which to cover his naked body. Our Lord Jesus was a truly sincere, intensely affectionate, earnest friend; never before did any man have a nature so intensely affectionate as the Lord Jesus Christ had. He always seems to me as if he combined in his blessed person both the sexes of our common humanity, as if he were the perfection of all that can be found in man and woman, too, so tender and so gentle, and yet so strong. The masculine, with all its force, and the feminine, with all its gentleness and sympathy, were united in Christ. He never thought of sinners without love, never looked at them without pity, never heard their cruel words without returning them good wishes, never saw their miseries without being moved with compassion. He was a model of gentleness such as you and I may well desire to imitate, but shall never reach. He was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the intense affection of his heart.

10. You need not wonder, therefore, that I add, in the next place, that he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in a very practical way, for intensity of heart is sure to produce fruit. Tell me that you love me, and it will come to very little if you only love me in words; but if there is true love, there will be corresponding action, there will be proofs of that affection. Our Saviour proved his love for men in his very coming to this earth, as I have already said; but when he was here, he went around doing good. He never was invited to do good to any, and refused, however lowly — and, let me add, however polluted they might be; they were always welcome to his favours. He went around preaching the gospel which could elevate those who were fallen, and comfort those who were despairing and at the last he proved his love in the highest conceivable manner. If a good shepherd laid down his life for his sheep, and in doing so was proved to be good, did not Jesus do so? Let me quote those blessed words of the apostle Peter, — there is more music in them than in all Homer’s poetry, — “Who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” So that we might live, he died. So that we might be cleansed from our iniquities, the Lord has laid them all on him. Oh sinners, Christ is indeed your friend, since, by his death, he has already done for you all that almighty love could suggest, and omnipotent love could carry out. Yes, and rising from the grave, and mounting to his throne, he made intercession for the transgressors, and he still continues to prove his love for sinners by daily pleading for them. The prayer he began on earth has never ended, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Oh, yes, he is intensely, deeply affectionate within himself, but he is abundantly and practically the friend of sinners by what he does for them! How I wish that some of you would prove this by going to him, so that he might exercise on you all the matchless skill of his inimitable grace!

11. Further, beloved, I call your attention to this fact, that our Lord Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners in the wisest possible sense. He is affectionate and practical, but he is also wise. You know that there are several ways of proving yourself to be a man’s friend. There is a man who calls on one whom he regards as his friend, and he says, “Friend, I want you to give me some drink”: and his friend says to him, “There is the bottle; take as much as you like.” A man who acts like that is only worthy to be called a foe. The poor fellow has another friend on whom he calls, and to his request his other friend replies, “I cannot give you strong drink; for I believe that it would greatly injure you. I look on it as a mischievous thing, and I am afraid the habit of drinking is growing on you. Excuse me, but I cannot give it to you.” I think you will all agree that this last is much the wiser friend. I know people to whom, if you go, and hint to them what advice you would like them to give you, they will give you that advice immediately. When people come to me to ask for advice, I generally know that they have made up their minds concerning the advice I am to give them; and if they find that I advise what they wish, they think me very wise. A wise friend knows that, though he might ingratiate himself for a moment by giving congenial advice, yet, eventually, when it turned out for evil, he would have done his friend a bad turn, and would be blamed for having done so. The wise friend often throws cold water on our plans, and says, “You are quite wrong,” although we would have wished him to have said, “You are right.” The Lord Jesus Christ is such a wise friend that he says to the sinner, “Come, friend, if you would be happy, you must give up that sin.” He does not say, “I will be your friend, and help you through the scrapes which you have gotten into through your sin.” “No,” says Christ, “I will help you out of your sin if you will trust me; but if you will keep your sin, you will have to smart for it, and I will not help you out of that sorrow.” He comes to you, my dear friend, and he says, “You want to be happy, but that is not the most important point; you must first be holy before you can be happy.” “Oh Lord Jesus!” says the sinner, “I want to get peace.” “No,” says Jesus, “you do not need peace yet; it would be injurious to you to have peace in your present condition, you must have purity first. I must first of all show you where you are wrong, and set you right.” As he does it, sometimes we cry out, “It is very rough treatment, Lord.” I have known, in cases of surgery, that a patient has been very anxious for the healing of the wound. “No,” says the skilful surgeon, “not yet; there is much proud flesh which must first be taken away; we must not close this orifice yet. It must be left open, for there is much that must still come out from it if we are to have a permanent cure.” So the Lord Jesus Christ often deals with sinners like this. He is their true friend even when he lays the axe to the root of their tree of self-righteousness, and begins to cut it down. He intends to make sure work, and permanent work, so he tells the sinner to renounce his sin, repent of his transgressions, and seek that complete change of heart which will produce a radical change of life. Christ is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in a very wise sense.

12. And, beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in a very intense sense. There is an old proverb which says, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Christ is the friend of sinners in their time of need. You, sir, have gone on in profligacy and extravagance until you are brought to penuary; yet even now you may come to Christ. You have ruined your health by sin; yet still you may come to Christ. Possibly you have even disgraced your character by some overt crime, yet you may come to Christ, and Christ will come to you. “Oh, but no one speaks to me!” He will speak to you; he will find you alone in your shame, and will speak to you words of saving power. Do I address some poor woman who has lost her character, and is shunned by everyone? Jesus Christ comes even to you as you stand alone, and he says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” The Lord Jesus likes to catch us when we are down at our very lowest; when others say, “Now he is down, keep him down,” then Christ says, “Now he is down, up with him.” There is a story told about the Saviour; I do not suppose that it is true, but it ought to be, for it is just what might have happened. It is an old tradition that, one day, in the streets of Jerusalem, there lay a dead dog; and one kicked the body, and said that it had mange; another kicked it, and said, “How its bones stick out! What a cur it is!” But there came One, who stood by this dead dog, and said, “What white teeth it has!” He had seen the only good thing that could be found in the dead dog; and as he went on his way, the people asked, “Who was that?” and others answered, “It was Jesus of Nazareth.” As I have said, I do not suppose that story is true, yet it is just as Christ would have acted; and that is the way he does with people. He sees some good thing or other, if there is any in them; or if there is no good thing in them, he still loves them until he loves them into goodness; for he knows the blessed art of getting hold of people at their worst, and then and there putting into them some point of brightness of character which delivers them from being utterly cast away. My blessed Master likes picking sinners off the very dunghills of sin. How many poor captives has he fetched from the prison-house, and set them free! How many has he gathered whom the devil himself had cast away as worn out and good-for-nothing! These are the very people whom he takes and makes to be his beloved ones, who shall wash his feet with their tears, and wipe them with the hairs of their head. Yes, Christ Jesus is a friend of great intensity for he is a friend in need.

13. Our Lord Jesus Christ is also the friend of sinners for constancy. He is the friend of the sinner when he begins his sin, and he checks him. He is the friend of the sinner when he goes on in his sin, and he warns him. He is the friend of the sinner when he has grown old in sin, and still he holds him back. He is the friend of the sinner when the sinner gets to be, as it were, furthest gone of all, — not only ripe, but rotten. Still Jesus follows him; the wonderful perseverance of divine mercy is a theme that may well arouse the marvel of angels. Oh sirs, I wish you who have gone very far into sin could only feel that still in his pity he looks on you, and still in his love he pursues you! He is indeed the friend of sinners. You wrote “sinners” in very small letters once, and then you might have written “friend” in equally small letters; but now, you write in large capitals — “SINNERS.” Oh, what a size the letters would be if they truly described you! But larger than all is that blessed word, “FRIEND.” As you seem to grow in sin, he seems even more to grow in friendship, and so you sing to him, —

    Still doth thy good Spirit strive —
    With the chief of sinners dwell.

Oh, that he would lead you to believe this even now, so that you might flee into his arms! He is the friend of sinners for his constancy.

14. I have nearly exhausted my time, so I can only say, my Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners in the largest conceivable sense. There never was a sinner to whom he was not willing to be a friend. If you, poor sinner, will only seek him, he will be found by you. In a revival, perhaps there may be hundreds coming to Christ; do not think that you will be one too many. And in dull times there may seem to be no one coming to Christ; do not think that he will refuse you because you are a solitary one. Where do you live, my hearer? Perhaps on some lone moor, or in some far-away glen, or out in the bush, yet Christ is there; so seek him in the silence of the evening. Or do you work in the midst of the busy city where all is noise and turmoil? Yet he will hear you; amid the hum of labour and the din of traffic, your whispered prayer will reach his ear and heart.

    Jesus sits on Zion’s hill,
    And receives poor sinners still,

and that at all hours of the night and all moments of the day. If he should refuse you when you go to him, you will be the first whom he ever did refuse, and I am sure he will not begin with you. That cannot be, for Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He also said, “Whoever comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.” No, that will never be your case nor mine, beloved, if we come to him; it is impossible. So let us rejoice that, throughout all time, as long as there is a sinner outside of hell, Christ is ready to be that sinner’s friend.

15. III. So I shall close my discourse when I have asked and answered one more question, SINCE CHRIST IS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS, WHAT THEN?

16. Well, first, let us do as the sinners used to do in his time, they drew near to him: “Then all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to him in order to hear him.” There is a great crowd of people; what a dense throng! Who is that in the middle? It is Jesus of Nazareth, the great Messiah Prophet preaching. Who are those gentlemen standing on the edge of the crowd, wearing broad phylacteries, discussing among themselves, and sneering at the doctrine that is being taught? Those are the very respectable people who never do anything wrong, the scribes and Pharisees, the learned men who know all that can possibly be known by anyone! These people always stand at the very outside of the ring; but who are those in the middle of the throng? And, immediately, some Pharisee holds up his hands in disgust, and says, “It is perfectly shocking! Wherever the Nazarene goes there is always a pack of the riff-raff around him. Whenever he speaks, you notice that he is surrounded by a lot of tax collectors, — the scum employed to collect the money for the Romans, for no Jew would do that unless he was very far gone. Do you not see that there is one of them close to his side just now, listening to him, and the tears are running down his checks? That is the kind of wretch to whom he preaches; and see that woman over there, that is the character of his hearers.” Now, why did men and women of that kind always get so close to Christ? It was because they felt that he was their friend. No, Rabbi Simeon, they will never come around you, so you need not trouble yourself on that point; you can gather up your skirts, and go home. They will not offend you by getting too close to your heels, for you are no friend of theirs. They know that; and, somehow, sympathy draws people, while coldness repels them. I pray the Lord Jesus Christ to exercise that drawing influence over you, my dear friends. Knowing that you are sinners, come and listen to the sinners’ friend. Read the writings of the four Evangelists, and see what he has said to you; and whenever his gospel is preached, or anything is said about him, try to understand it, and accept it; you will do so if you are wise.

17. Next, not only draw near to him, but test him as often as the need arises. There is nothing like putting Christ to the test. In a side street, not far from here, you may have seen in a window this notice, “If any poor girl on the streets desires to escape from her sinful way of living, she will find a friend inside.” I felt very pleased when that notice in the window was pointed out to me; and I think that, if I were a poor girl in that sad case, and wished to escape, I should go inside to see what the friend could do for me. The Lord Jesus Christ has put in his window a message of this kind, “Any sinner of any kind who desires to be saved, let him come to me.” Now, do not merely stand at the window, and read it, but come inside, my poor brother; come inside, my sister. Come to Jesus; come to Jesus just now.

18. To get to him, there is only this to be done, just trust him; trust him implicitly, wholly, solely, trust him now. When you trust him, then you are saved, for it is written, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” If you have trusted Christ, you have everlasting life; that act of faith proves that everlasting life has dropped into your heart, and that Christ has said to you, “Your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you; go, and sin no more.”

19. When you have trusted Christ, and proved him to be your friend, tell others what you know about him. Whisper it around; you will find some more poor sinners who will be glad to hear the good news. You remember the dog at the hospital that went of his own accord and had his broken leg set; and then he went again with another broken-legged dog. He was a sensible animal; and oh! let every poor soul that has received Christ go and find another soul, and bring him to Christ. In the depth of winter, at a time when I had a balcony to my study, I put some crumbs out on it, and there came a robin redbreast first, and he pecked and ate all he could. I do not know his language, but I imagine I can tell what he said, for he went away, and then came back with ever so many sparrows and other birds. He had said to them, “There are crumbs up here, come and get them.” And they all came, and they came in greater numbers every day, and I do not know how it was except that they told each other. One day, whether it was the robin or the sparrows, I do not know, but some of them told a blackbird, and he was a bigger fellow than any of them; when he came, he stood near, for I should think, a minute, and then he spied me inside, and he flew away, for he thought, “That good man does not like blackbirds.” But he did not know me; I was pleased to see him, and I should have liked to see a lot of such birds, so the robin went up to him, and told him that he had been there for the last three or four days, and I had never even threatened him; so, after being persuaded a little, the blackbird came back, and the robin seemed to me to be quite pleased to think that he had converted this fellow, and brought him back, for they dropped down together on the crumbs, and they had such a joyful feast that they came again and again. Oh, there are some of you, dear robin redbreasts, that have been here ever so long, and have been eating my Master’s crumbs! You have brought some sparrows to the feast; now try to entice a blackbird, and if there is one blackbird bigger and blacker than another, go and fetch him and bring him, for Jesus says that he will cast out no one who comes to him by faith, and you may be sure that it is true, for he is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” May God bless you all, dear friends, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Lu 7:24-50}

24. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak to the people concerning John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

Certainly not; John could never be compared to a reed shaken with the wind, for he was strong, sturdy, firm, and steadfast. He was not like so many preachers, nowadays, who are swayed by the ever-changing opinion of the age, — the thought of these modern times, — and so prove themselves to be mere reeds shaken with the wind.

25. But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing! Behold, those who are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.

John had been preaching in the desert, with all his might warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come. He was no court preacher, but a minister to the multitude, who delivered his heaven-inspired message in his own straightforward earnest style.

26, 27. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’

John was the morning star, and Christ the glorious Sun. John was the herald proclaiming the coming of Christ, and Christ himself followed close at his heels.

28. For I say to you, among those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist:

His was the highest office of all, immediately to precede the Messiah himself.

28. But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

We have a fuller gospel to preach than John had, and we may expect to see greater results from the preaching of that gospel than John could hope to see.

29-32. And all the people who heard him, and the tax collectors, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized by him. And the Lord said, “To what then I shall compare the men of this generation? and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the market-place, and calling to each other, and saying, ‘We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have mourned to you, and you have not wept.’

These children could not agree concerning what game they would play. “Come,” they said, “let us imitate a wedding; we will pipe, and you can dance.” But the others would not dance. “Well,” they said, “let us play something else. Let us imitate a funeral; we will be the mourners.” Then the others would not weep. They would agree to nothing that was proposed, and that is the point of the Saviour’s analogy, that there are multitudes of men who always quarrel with any kind of ministry that God may send to them. This man’s style is much too florid; he has a superabundance of the flowers of oratory. That other man is much too dull; there is nothing interesting about his discourses. This man is too coarse; he is so rough as even to be vulgar. That other man is too refined, and uses language which shoots over people’s heads. It is easy to find fault when you want to do so. Any stick will do to beat a dog, and any kind of excuse will do to allow your conscience to escape from the message of an earnest ministry. Our Lord told the people that this was the way they had acted towards himself and John the Baptist.

33. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; —

An ascetic of ascetics, —

33. And you say, ‘He has a demon.’

“He is out of his mind altogether, possessed by the demon.”

34. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; —

That is the Lord Jesus himself. He comes as a man among men, and sits with you at your feasts, and does not lead the life of an ascetic.

34. And you say, ‘Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ ”

There was no pleasing them either way; whichever form of preacher the Lord sent, whether an ascetic or one like themselves, they found fault.

35. But wisdom is justified by all her children.

There shall come a day when it shall be seen that, after all, God knew best what kind of preacher to send. He had work for each man to do, and he adapted the man for the work he had entrusted to his charge.

36. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.

Invitations from Pharisees were rather scarce; they did not often ask Christ to their houses. Even before this meal is over, there will be sure to be something like a quarrel, depend on it.

37. And, behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, —

Her name is not given; and there are good reasons why it should not be given. Certainly, she was not Mary the sister of Lazarus, nor yet Mary Magdalene, we may be quite sure of that. Our Saviour leaves her in an anonymous condition; and it is usually best that converts of this character should not be exhibited, and their names made known. I believe that much cruel wrong has been done to reclaimed sinners when they have been pushed to the forefront. “Behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner,” —

37, 38. When she knew that Jesus sat eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, —

His feet probably lay towards the door as he reclined at the table, and she could readily get at them without becoming too conspicuous in the room: she “stood at his feet behind him weeping,” —

38. And began to wash his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

What a blessed amalgam of humility, penitence, gratitude, and love! All these are seen in what she did, especially in that unbinding of the tresses of her beauty, which had been her nets in which she had taken the souls of men; now she uses these for a towel. She “began to wash his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

39. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he spoke within himself, —

He did not like to say it in so many words, but he spoke loudly enough for himself to hear it, and for Christ to hear it, too.

39-44. Saying, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what kind of woman this is who touches him: for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he says, “Master, say on.” “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him the most?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” And he said to him, “You have rightly judged.” And he turned to the woman, and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

“You saw this woman, and you looked on her with a frowning face; now take another look at her in the light of my parable.” “Simon, do you see this woman?”

44. I entered into your house, —

“Therefore you were bound by the obligations of a host,” —

44. You gave me no water for my feet: —

An ordinary commonplace courtesy in the East, almost a necessity for those who have walked far, and whose feet are weary and dusty: “You gave me no water for my feet”: —

44. But she has washed my feet with tears, —

Costly water this! “She has washed my feet with tears.”

44. And wiped them with the hairs of her head.

“She has done it, she has done it better than you would have done it, she has done it best of all, she has done what you ought to have done, she has done it when there seemed to be no claim on her to do it.”

45. You gave me no kiss: —

Though that was the ordinary mode of greeting to an honoured guest, —

46. But this woman since the time I came in has not ceased to kiss my feet.

“You said in your heart that, if I had been a prophet, I should have known who and what kind of woman this was. I do know, and I am telling you. If you had given me a kiss, you would only have coldly kissed my brow, but she has found it in her heart to honour me by kissing my feet. Since I came in, she has not ceased to kiss them, unwashed as they were; and she has not only kissed them, but she has also washed them with her tears.”

46. You did not anoint my head with oil: —

“You, the host, whose duty it was to anoint the head of your guest, did not do it,” —

46. But this woman has anointed my feet with ointment.

The best unguent she possessed or could procure.

47, 48. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

“Not because she has done this, but this is an evidence that her sins are forgiven. This act of greater love is the proof that she must be conscious of the greater forgiveness: ‘she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ ” It is always like that; your converted Pharisees have to be made to feel like this woman before they will render love like hers; and if Simon is ever made to feel that his sin, in a certain light, is as great as the sin of this fallen woman, then he will love as much as she does, but not until then.

Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Oh, the marvellous music of that short sentence! If I had to choose from all language the choicest sentence that my ear could hear when under a sense of sin, it would be these four words which the Master addressed to this woman who was a notable public sinner, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49. And those who sat eating with him began to say within themselves, “Who is this who forgives sins also?”

Now, you see, they begin to mutter and to criticize. What is this poor woman to do? Probably she felt ready to speak up for her Master; but, sometimes, it happens that the Lord Jesus Christ will not permit certain even of his forgiven ones to be very prominent.

50. And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

She was best out of the way of all controversy; she would honour him most by going home, and there sweetly singing to his praise, and drinking deep draughts of his love. If any of you converts are meeting with those who criticize you, do not stay where they are, but go about your business with these sweet words of your Master ringing in your ears: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Received by Faith — Christ Is All” 551}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Contrite Cries — Depth Of Mercy” 568}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Invitations — ‘Seek, And Ye Shall Find’ ” 499}


Gospel, Received by Faith
551 — Christ Is All <7s.>
1 Jesus, lover of my soul,
   Let me to thy bosom fly,
   While the nearer waters roll,
   While the tempest still is high!
   Hide me, oh my Saviour, hide,
   Till the storm of life be past;
   Safe into the haven guide;
   Oh receive my soul at last.
2 Other refuge have I none,
   Hangs my helpless soul on thee!
   Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
   Still support and comfort me!
   All my trust on thee is stay’d
   All my help from thee I bring;
   Cover my defenceless head
   With the shadow of thy wing.
3 Thou, oh Christ, art all I want;
   More than all in thee I find:
   Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
   Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
   Just and holy is thy name,
   I am all unrighteousness,
   False and full of sin I am;
   Thou art full of truth and grace.
4 Plenteous grace with thee is found,
   Grace to cover all my sin;
   Let the healing streams abound,
   Make and keep me pure within;
   Thou of life the fountain art,
   Freely let me take of thee!
   Spring thou up within my heart,
   Rise to all eternity!
                     Charles Wesley, 1740.


The Christian, Contrite Cries
568 — Depth Of Mercy <7s., Double.>
1 Depth of mercy, can there be
   Mercy still reserved for me?
   Can my God his wrath forbear?
   Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
   I have long withstood his grace,
   Long provoked him to his face;
   Would not hearken to his calls:
   Grieved him by a thousand falls.
2 Kindled his relentings are;
   Me he still delights to spare;
   Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
   Lets the lifted thunder drop.
   There for me the Saviour stands;
   Shows his wounds and spreads his hands,
   God is love, I know, I feel
   Jesus pleads, and loves me still.
3 Jesus, answer from above:
   Is not all thy nature love?
   Wilt thou not the wrong forget?
   Suffer me to kiss thy feet?
   If thou all compassion art,
   Bow thine ear, in mercy bow;
   Pardon and accept me now.
4 Pity from thine eye let fall;
   By a look my soul recall;
   Now the stone to flesh convert,
   Cast a look, and break my heart.
   Now incline me to repent;
   Let me now my fall lament:
   Now my foul revolt deplore;
   Weep, believe, and sin no more.
                     Charles Wesley, 1740.


Gospel, Invitations
499 — “Seek, And Ye Shall Find” <7s.>
1 Come, poor sinner, come and see,
   All thy strength is found in me;
   I am waiting to be kind,
   To relieve thy troubled mind.
2 Dost thou feel thy sins a pain?
   Look to me and ease obtain:
   All my fulness thou mayest share,
   And be always welcome there.
3 Boldly come; why dost thou fear?
   I possess a gracious ear;
   I will never tell thee nay,
   While thou hast a heart to pray.
4 Try the freeness of my grace,
   Sure, ‘twill suit thy trying case;
   Mourning souls will ne’er complain,
   Having sought my face in vain.
5 Knock, and cast all doubt behind,
   Seek, and thou shalt surely find;
   Ask, and I will give thee peace,
   And thy confidence increase.
6 Will not this encourage thee,
   Vile and poor, to come to me?
   Sure thou canst not doubt my will!
   Come and welcome, sinner, still.
                           Hewett, 1850.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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