Reading through the Gospel accounts, one can’t help but notice which people Jesus spent the most time with. Lowly fishermen. The sick and the lame. Women and children. Even those possessed by demons. Jesus’ heart ached with compassion for those treated unjustly and sentenced to live in the margins.
Jesus’ love, though, stretched beyond simply showing compassion toward the poor and vulnerable members of society.
In the very first gospel account, Matthew tells how Jesus called him—a despised tax collector—to leave his money tables and follow Him.
Tax collectors were known for their corruption, often gaining wealth through unjust measures. Additionally, Matthew’s association with the Roman government would have branded him an unclean traitor in the eyes of his fellow countrymen.
Jesus was probably the first person to show this unjust man compassionate mercy, and in response Matthew threw a party at his house large enough that the religious rulers took note. This was a big deal. Jesus wasn’t just talking with them; He was enjoying the intimacy of a meal. Perhaps they even wondered if the very food and drink consumed were funded through dishonest means.
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” they asked the disciples (Matthew 9:11).
Jesus, hearing their question, answered: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12–13).
Knowing of Jesus’ mercy toward the least deserving, some scribes and Pharisees put Him to the test. Early one morning they brought an adulteress before Him and asked what should be done: “Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:5).
It’s doubtful they cared about a just verdict, for they hadn’t even bothered to bring both conspirators. Their aim was to discredit Jesus. Whether He said yes or no to stoning her, He was sure to look bad. They underestimated Jesus.
After bending down to write a message on the ground, He astutely replied: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
As He continued to write on the ground, they began to walk away one by one. They knew they weren’t without sin. No one is!
When all had left, Jesus spoke to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v. 11).
One thing is clear: Jesus doesn’t seek after the righteous. Whether it’s a despised tax collector or an adulteress tried in a manipulative and unjust manner, Jesus desires mercy. He cares for those who have been treated unjustly, but He also cares for the ones who perpetrate injustice. To put it another way, Jesus longs to offer grace to those who least deserve it. His love knows no bounds.