The Early Outreach of Jesus Christ
Quarter 1, Lesson 2

Lesson Two

The Sinners

Each gospel referred to a group known in acceptable Jewish religious society as "the sinners." Religiously concerned Jews feared being classified as one of the "sinners." At least three views exist as to whom the "sinners" were. View one: "sinners" were Jewish people who refused to follow the Pharisees' strict guidelines. View two: "sinners" were those who chose to do evil and refused to repent. View three: "sinners" were those who opposed God's will [as defined by the person or group who considered these people to be "sinners"]. [Allen Black, The College Press NIV Commentary: Mark (College Press Publishing Company: 1995), p.71]

Some facts seem evident from statements made in the gospels. (1) The Jewish "sinners" were one of two groups [sinners and tax collectors] within first century Israel who were examples of ungodly people governed by evil. (2) Thus, "sinners" were Jews who [a] were not religious or [b] defied religious values and positions. They were accused of allowing evil to rule them. (3) "Sinners" were Jews who refused God's control of their lives. They rejected common religious practices. (4) "Sinners" were among the undesirables in Israel's religious society.

At times the judgments or evaluations of religious leaders placed someone in that group. At times the person's behavior placed him or her in that group. Sinners were unsuitable for social association in Israel. Properly religious people shunned them. See Matthew 9:10-13 and John 9:22. Such undesirables were denied involvement in synagogue activities, and synagogues occupied a central role in Jewish communities. Though the sinners were Jews, those who considered themselves "godly" and "committed" rejected them.

Another realization must "balance the scales." Likely, many of these people had no desire to be a part of the "Jewish mainstream religious establishments." (1) Every society has individuals who have no desire to be religious. That likely was true of some of the sinners. (2) Some likely were disgusted and "turned off" by religious leaders they could not and did not respect. If Jesus saw the Pharisees' and scribes' inconsistencies (Matthew 23), some of these people surely saw those inconsistencies. (3) Some likely enjoyed and valued the pleasures produced by evil conduct. (4) Some likely were enslaved to a sense of guilt. While many sinners likely felt rejected by religious society, it is likely many had little desire to be a part of Israel's religious establishments.

Jesus "connected" with these people because he was a compassionate person who forgave. He gave them hope. He declared God would accept them if they repented. That is why many of them associated with Jesus (Matthew 9:10) and listened to Jesus (Luke 15:1).

  1. Read Matthew 9:10-13.

    1. When Matthew accepted Jesus' call to be a disciple, who came and ate with Jesus and his disciples (verse 10)?

    2. What did the Pharisees say to Jesus' disciples (verse 11)? Explain why they would make that comment.

    3. State and explain Jesus' answer (verses 12,13).

  2. Read Matthew 11:16-19 and explain how some people tried to destroy Jesus' influence.

  3. Read Luke 6:31-36.

    1. How were Jesus' disciples to treat people (verse 31)?

    2. What did Jesus say about sinners and love (verse 32)?

    3. What did Jesus say about sinners and doing good to others (verse 33)?

    4. What did Jesus say about sinners and making loans (verse 34)?

    5. What were Jesus' disciples to do that sinners would not do (verse 35)?

    6. Why are Jesus' disciples merciful in their treatment of others (verse 36)?

  4. Read Luke 7:36-50.

    1. What kind of woman came to this meal uninvited (verse 37)?

    2. What did she do (verses 37, 38)?

    3. As this happened, what did the Pharisee think (verse 39)?

    4. Why did Jesus forgive this woman (verses 44-50)?

  5. Read Luke 13:1-5. A common Jewish conviction: God used tragedy to punish an Israelite for the evil he or she committed.

    1. What seemed to be a common conclusion when some Galilean Jews died as they offered their sacrifices (verses 1, 2)?

    2. What seemed to be the common conclusion when a tower in Siloam fell on and killed eighteen people (verse 4)?

    3. Jesus said people needed to understand what (verses 3, 5)?

  6. Read Luke 15.

    1. Who came to listen to Jesus (verse 1)?

    2. How did the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus (verse 2)?

    3. What is the central theme of Luke 15?

    4. What did Jesus say about a sinner in verses 7 and 10?

  7. Read John 9.

    1. What question did Jesus' disciples ask him (verses 1,2)?

    2. What answer did Jesus give (verses 3-5)?

    3. What did the Pharisees say they knew about Jesus (verse 24)?

    4. What was obvious to the man who was healed (verse 30, 31)?

    5. How did the Pharisees dismiss his insights (verse 34)?

Christians must never forget that Jesus led "sinners" to repentance.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 1, Lesson 2

Copyright © 2001
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ


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