And it came to pass, as Jesus sat to eat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
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Having therefore called him, He also honored him with a very great honor by partaking straightway of his table; for in this way He would both give him good hope for the future, and lead him on to a greater confidence. For not in a long time, but at once, He healed his vice. And not with him only does He sit down to meat, but with many others also; although this very thing was accounted a charge against Him, that He chased not away the sinners. But neither do they conceal this point, what sort of blame is endeavored to be fixed on His proceedings.
Now the publicans come together as to one of the same trade; for he, exulting in the entrance of Christ, had called them all together. The fact is, Christ used to try every kind of treatment; and not when discoursing only, nor when healing, nor when reproving His enemies, but even at His morning meal, He would often correct such as were in a bad way; hereby teaching us, that every season and every work may by possibility afford us profit. And yet surely what was then set before them came of injustice and covetousness; but Christ refused not to partake of it, because the ensuing gain was to be great: yea rather He becomes partaker of the same roof and table with them that have committed such offenses. For such is the quality of a physician; unless he endure the corruption of the sick, he frees them not from their infirmity.
And yet undoubtedly He incurred hence an evil report: first by eating with him, then in Matthew's house, and thirdly, in company with many publicans. See at least how they reproach Him with this. Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. Matthew 11:19
Let them hear, as many as are striving to deck themselves with great honor for fasting, and let them consider that our Lord was called a man gluttonous and a winebibber, and He was not ashamed, but overlooked all these things, that he might accomplish what He had set before him; which indeed was accordingly done. For the publican was actually converted, and thus became a better man.
And to teach you that this great thing was wrought by his partaking of the table with Him, hear what Zacchæus says, another publican. I mean, when he heard Christ saying, Today, I must abide in your house, the delight gave him wings, and he says, The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And to him Jesus says, This day is salvation come to this house. So possible is it by all ways to give instruction.
But how is it, one may say, that Paul commands, If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator or covetous, with such an one no, not to eat? 1 Corinthians 5:11 In the first place, it is not as yet manifest, whether to teachers also he gives this charge, and not rather to brethren only. Next, these were not yet of the number of the perfect, nor of those who had become brethren. And besides, Paul commands, even with respect to them that had become brethren, then to shrink from them, when they continue as they were, but these had now ceased, and were converted.