Story of a holy man who chooses the company of sinners?
February 16, 2016 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Trying to remember a parable of a holy man who chose instead to dine/associate with a sinner instead of his devoted followers, because the sinner had more need of his comfort/presence/teachings than did those who already knew him... sound familiar to anyone?

Greetings hivemind! I'm trying to remember a story of some sort-- no idea where I heard or read it, not sure if it's from Christianity or some other faith teaching or possibly a work of pure entertainment fiction. The basic premise is, there's a good and holy man, and he has a certain amount of fame-- enough that there are followers or fans or disciples, who exert themselves trying to show that they are worthy of his presence, laying on their best food and drink and inviting him to visit, but the holy man instead chooses to visit a crude, poor, possibly sinful person, and puts up with the sinful person's bad food and grouchy company, much to the dismay of the faithful. The point being, of course, that the sinful man is the one who can benefit from the presence and teachings of the holy man the most, far more than those who are already on the path to goodness.

I may have imagined the whole thing, but if there's some actual myth or something out there like this, I'd like to hear about it! Thank you!
posted by The otter lady to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might be thinking of Jesus; he was sort of like a superhero in the Christian tradition; he could run on water, and his robe could heal you if you touched it. Unfortunately, he did get murdered by the government. Interesting guy, though!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on February 16, 2016 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Jesus? Matthew 9:10-13, and maybe somewhere in Luke also...

'While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”'
posted by lemonade at 9:34 AM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: That's gotta be it--- I'd asked my mother who I'd have thought could have quoted chapter and verse, but she said she didn't recall a specific example of the whole "No, I'mma eat with this guy, not you guys, 'cause he needs me more" so I was thinking it had to be something more obscure. Thanks very much!
posted by The otter lady at 9:40 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a story that repeats many times in Buddhist tradition. The buddhas regularly shun the pious and seek out those living the most material lives.

There is a story I remember being told by a sunim about a buddha who was travelling through the kingdom of a notoriously hedonistic king. The king came upon him during a hunt and insisted that he come back to the palace. For five years, the buddha stayed and lived in the palace with the king, partaking of his food, wine, and games, while teaching the king about the true path.

One day they king asked the buddha peevishly who he was to speak of such piety when he was enjoying all the same comforts as the king. The buddha responded by asking how the king could be reached by someone who did not share his comforts.

The next day, the king and the buddha went for a walk and, as they reached the point where they must turn around to reach the palace by nightfall, the buddha kept walking. The king balked and the buddha said "your enlightenment is this way."

"When will we return?"

"We will not return."

"But my people need me."

"When you realize that that need is entirely within you, you will find me in this direction."

And the buddha kept walking.
posted by 256 at 9:58 AM on February 16, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: It's not exactly what you describe, but the best fit I can think of in the Bible is the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus preferring the company of sinner to the professional holy types is a running theme of the New Testament. You get it again and again. For example, the opening of Luke 15:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

In response to that, Jesus sold a series of three parables, ending in the well-known story of the prodigal son. Some of his most famous teaching was a result of the crowd's dismay at who his dinner companions were.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:59 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ah well the Gospels are full of that stuff, the first such anecdote that came to mind for me is the story of the "sinful woman" and the anointing of Jesus - it does match most details of your description except the "puts up with the sinful person's bad food and grouchy company" but it does involve a dinner invite and it's clearly stated this is a "sinful" person (possibly identified/conflated in the figure of Mary Magdalene):
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
posted by bitteschoen at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The other answers cover it pretty much. But I was also reminded of Peter Rollins' Left Behind parable (it's probably not what you're expecting).
posted by parm at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

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