It can seem a daunting prospect to enter into a sacred lenten journey. We are invited to spend six and a half weeks contemplating our sinfulness and Jesus’ atoning work to forgive our sin. Our timid souls bristle against such an inward journey. We don’t like to look too deeply within for fear of what we may find there. If we’re ashamed by what we unearth, won’t Jesus be all the more repelled by it? And, we wonder, is Jesus a friend to sinners like me?

We need to remember, Jesus doesn’t think as we think. Nor is he surprised or repelled by our sin. Our sinfulness draws him to us, not because he’s attracted to sin, but because he’s attracted to our rescue.

Throughout the gospels, the religious elite are repeatedly outraged that Jesus spends his time with sinful, less-desirable people. Of particular disgust to them is Jesus’ association with tax-gatherers. These were men who not only collected the high taxes imposed by the ruling Roman government, they also charged extra to keep a profit for themselves. Not only did they do the bidding of the occupying enemy invaders, they profited from it as well.

These men were despised by everyone. And yet, Jesus is drawn to them, and they to him.

There’s safety in drawing near to Jesus

Whatever sin we uncover in our lenten journey inward, we can still feel safe in drawing near to Jesus. Not even our sin prevents him from being drawn to us. Jesus comes close but he doesn’t leave us the way he finds us. He comes to rescue us, like the good shepherd and the lost lamb. Jesus comes to transform us, as he did Zaccheus the chief tax-gatherer. He runs toward us to welcome us into his family, as the Father does with the prodigal son. And Jesus draws near to us to appoint us, as he did Matthew, a tax-gatherer turned apostle.

Jesus is a friend to us sinners. He comes as the Prince of Peace, bringing shalom into our chaotic inner world. His death brings us peace with the Father through adoption as his sons and daughters. Jesus’ atoning work also brings us peace with ourselves. If the most despised men of Jesus’ day were welcomed at his table, we can rest assured that we too are invited into intimate fellowship with him.

Jesus sees enormous potential in all of us. And the invitation is as personal as it is expansive. Come to Jesus with all your sin, but don’t expect to remain the same. Jesus brings forgiveness, healing, transformation, and the Father’s blessing when he comes. How might he desire to rescue or transform you during this lenten season? Get ready to be changed!