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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, June 25, 2011

“A friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).

The enemies of Jesus thought they could give Him a bad name by calling Him “A friend of publicans and sinners.” They meant to disgrace Him by calling Him that. But to this day Jesus is admired and worshipped by the very title that His enemies thought would bring Him shame. What His hate-filled enemies said of Him in bitterness has been turned by the Holy Spirit into a lovely title, “A friend of sinners.”

Jesus is the friend of sinners,
   Friend of sinners, friend of sinners;
Jesus is the friend of sinners,
   He can set you free.

If you trust Him, He will save you,
   He will save you, He will save you;
If you trust Him, He will save you,
   Give you life anew.
(“Jesus is the Friend of Sinners” by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).

Let us take a few minutes this evening to think of how Jesus was, and still is, a friend of sinners.

I. First, during His ministry on earth Jesus was a friend of sinners.

What better proof could He give than His leaving the vaults of Heaven for the vulgarity of a manger? What better proof could He give than leaving the angels of God, to lie in a filthy place where the cows and donkeys fed – to stoop down from God’s right hand and associate with fallen men? The incarnation of the Saviour in the very form and likeness of sinners, taking upon Himself the flesh of sinners, being born of a sinner – His very being a man, which is equal to coming in the same form as sinners – surely this is enough to prove that He is the sinner’s friend!

As soon as Jesus began His real life-work, He immediately showed His friendship for sinners by being with them. He came right to them. He touched the lepers, the blind and sick. He took upon Himself our sicknesses and bore our infirmities – and so proved that He was really the sinner’s friend. He came into direct contact with sin, without being contaminated by it. He ate and drank with sinners. He sat at the Pharisee’s table one day. On another day He went to the despised tax collector’s home, and that day salvation came to the publican’s house. This shows how true His love for sinners was, that He did not turn away from even the worst of them.

Jesus not only went among sinners, but was always seeking to help and heal them, and pardon their sins. He spoke with a Samaritan woman. She believed in Him and became a missionary to her own people. This was always the way Jesus treated sinners. His sweetest sermons were those He preached to sinners. I would love to have seen His dear face when He cried, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He always said loving words to sinners, such as this, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The very worst sinner, the “chief of sinners,” thus became His disciple. His last human contact before He died was with a thief. He loved and saved a thief in the very hour of His death.

Jesus proved His love for sinners by living among them, by preaching to them, by patiently enduring their evil words and deeds. He also proved His love for sinners by praying for them. Almost His last words on the Cross were a prayer for sinners, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Jesus was a friend to sinners throughout His life on earth.

As He died on the Cross, it was no ordinary death. He died there as a substitute for sinners, to pay the debt of sin, to keep sinners out of Hell. He endured the hells of all who come to Him. His death for sinners was an amazing display of His love. “Herein is love, that while we were yet sinners, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus did this – and it shows that He is the friend of sinners.

But now He rose from the dead. Now He spent forty days on earth – still showing His love for sinners – because He rose again for their justification.

But now He ascended back to Heaven, to the right hand of God the Father. Why is He exalted on high? To give repentance and remission of sin, and to pray for sinners.

These are some of the ways that Jesus showed that He is a friend of sinners. How I pray that you will believe that Jesus is the lover of your soul, and that believing this, you will come to Him, for Jesus is

“A friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).

II. Second, what Jesus is doing now for sinners.

This sermon is adapted from one given by C. H. Spurgeon. Here he gives a brief account of the conversion of the hymn writer, Horatius Bonar, whom he knew.

I know a sinner [Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889]. I remember very well when he was a hard-hearted enemy of God. But Jesus, the friend of sinners, loved him. One day Jesus looked right into his soul with such a look that his hard heart began to break. There was an agony and grief. That person knew no peace for many a year, but one day

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;
   Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad;
   I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
   The living water; thirsty one, Stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank Of that life giving stream;
   My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
   Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found In Him my Star, my Sun;
   And in that light of life I’ll walk, Till traveling days are done.
(“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

Oh sinner, if you trust Jesus, He will be the same to you. Let me impress upon you that Jesus is the friend of the friendless, the friend of unbelievers and sinners.

Oh! by that love, looking out of those eyes in tears; Oh! by that love, streaming from those wounds flowing with blood; by that faithful love, that strong love, that pure and abiding love; Oh! by the heart of the Saviour’s compassion, I plead with you not to turn away from Jesus; but believe on Him and you shall be saved. Come to Him and He will bring you to His Father’s right hand in glory everlasting. Amen.

Jesus is the friend of sinners,
   Friend of sinners, friend of sinners;
Jesus is the friend of sinners,
   He can set you free.

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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“A friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).

I.   First, during His ministry on earth Jesus was a friend of sinners.

II.  Second, what Jesus is doing now for sinners.