The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Luke 7:34
This hymn does a masterful job at showing us who Jesus is. I have written about it before, but after recently singing it in church, I wanted to take the time to do a "deep dive" into each verse of this hymn.
Jesus is a friend for sinners, even when our earthly friends fail us. It's inevitable; because we live in a fallen world, our friends are sinners. And they will sin. They will disappoint us, not live up to our expectations and desires, and they may even walk away from a faith that once was strong.
Paul had this experience himself. While in prison in Rome, he wrote to his friend Timothy, the pastor at the church at Ephesus, and urged him to come and visit.
Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. II Timothy 4:9-10
Notice what he tells Timothy - Come soon! For my friend Demas has deserted me. And two others have left as well. Demas was Paul's partner in ministry. But clearly he couldn't hack it - he loved the world too much. I'm sure this was a disappointment to Paul. Not only did he lose his friend in a geographic sense (as Demas literally left Paul's side and went to Thessalonica) but he watched him choose the world over Jesus.
This wasn't the first time this had happened to Paul. A little later in the letter he recounts:
At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. II Timothy 4:17
Everyone deserted him! You'll note that Paul, in his graciousness, asks that it not be counted against them. But still! No one supported him. This is Paul we're talking about. Paul, who had the most amazing conversion story of all time, the living voice of God who has been in prison for spreading the gospel. They all deserted him.
Remember, Jesus is a friend for sinners. And Paul reminds us of that.
But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. II Timothy 4:17-18
The Lord stood by Him! Everyone else deserted him but not Jesus. Not only did He stand by Paul, but He strengthened him and rescued him.
I love how Paul takes every opportunity to give God the glory. Even though several more verses follow, He can't end this section of His letter without a little benediction.
Take some time today to meditate on Jesus, the friend for sinners. Thank Him for the times that He has stood by you. Praise Him for making you whole.
Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!
Words by J. Wilbur Chapman
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
Jesus! what a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.
Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.
Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.
Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.