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Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "."
When preparing to preach on this text, it is crucial to note that Verses 1 and 2 are not just an opening aside. In a few short words they lay out an issue that all communities struggle with:
- What are our standards?
- How do we respond to those who break our standards?
It is potentially OK that tax collectors and sinners were coming to listen to Jesus, if that meant they would repent of their ways, make the appropriate acts of reconciliation, and promise to live according to the accepted standards of the community.
But those in charge of policing the community's standards grumble, because Jesus, "welcomes sinners and eats with them!"
Malina and Rohrbaugh (page 288, see footnote below) comment:
To "welcome" sinners implies showing hospitality, playing host to them at a meal. To invite a person to a meal was an honor that implied acceptance, trust, peace.
Jesus' behaviour is a significant disruption of community standards: he is welcoming those who have been cast out; and honouring those who have been shamed.