Jonathan Parnell writes:
Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners. That was the word on the street in first-century Palestine.
The precise phrase — “friend of sinners” — is mentioned twice in the Gospels, in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. The naysayers of the day, the religious aristocracy, criticized Jesus as a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
They called him this because it was true.