Posts Tagged ‘Tax collector’

“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.” Luke 15:1

If Jesus were to walk into your town today, I wonder what kind of people He would attract. If you were like the rest of us, you’d probably expect all the well-put-together churchgoers to show up and occupy the front row seats. But you just might be surprised.

In Luke 15:1-32, it wasn’t the good folk who crowded around Jesus; it was the tax collectors and “sinners.” These were the ones who lived in blatant disregard for the law—the problem people in town! Which makes me wonder, what is it about Jesus that attracted them? And why were the “good folk” standing at the fringe of the crowd? Because they were ticked at sinners to begin with and mad at Jesus for hanging out with such unworthy people!

Thankfully, Jesus puts things into perspective for them—and for us—with a few lessons about why He hangs out with sinners, by telling the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

The point Jesus makes is that sinners have great value to God. Why else would the shepherd go after one lost sheep, or the woman conduct a diligent search for her coin? They had suffered significant loss—a loss like God suffered when sin took people, His prized possession, away from Him.

And, to make matters worse, sinners are hopelessly lost. Sheep can’t help themselves when lost, and obviously when a coin is lost, it remains lost until someone finds it. Which means there must be intentional intervention to rescue the lost. That’s why Jesus said that He came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Obviously the grumblers on the fringe didn’t get it, but it was Jesus’ love and pursuit of sinners that drew their hearts to Him.

Got any “sinners” near you? Are you feeling a little standoffish and grumpy about them, or are you compelled to love them by launching a rescue operation of your own? After all, I bet you’re glad He went after you—as hopelessly lost and hell-bound as you were. So take a moment to remember what it was like to be lost, and do what you can to attract others to the joy of being found. You can’t go wrong when you’re at the core of the crowd. See you there!

Lord Jesus, I want to be at the core of the crowd.  Forgive me for attitudes that counteract Your abundant mercy for the lost, and enable me to be Your hands and feet to reach out to those who desperately need to be found. Amen


  • Are you at the fringe of the crowd with the religious folk, grumbling about “sinners”? If so, read Romans 2:3-4, and ask the Lord to replace your judgmental spirit with His heart of compassion.
  • Are you at the core of the crowd, as one of the “sinners” who has found Jesus? If so, how does this help stir a heart of compassion for other “sinners” around you?
  • What attitudes and actions in your life might be detracting others from the love of Jesus? Are there some things in your life that attract people to Him?

Then Jesus went out again beside the Sea of Galilee; and all the crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he passed along he saw Levi, the son of AlphÊus, sitting at the house where taxes were collected, and he said to him, “Come with me.” So Levi arose and followed him.

Now while Jesus was eating dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-gatherers and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples. The scribes and Pharisees, seeing this, said to his disciples, “Does he eat with tax-gatherers and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “Not those who are well, but those who are sick have need of a physician. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

At another time one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him. So Jesus entered the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the table. In the town was a wicked woman who, when she heard that Jesus was sitting at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of perfume. She stood behind at his feet, weeping; and as her tears began to wet his feet, she wiped them with her hair. And she tenderly kissed his feet and poured the perfume over them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know about the woman who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have a word to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Master.” “There were two men who owed a certain money-lender some silver: one owed him five hundred silver pieces and the other fifty. Neither of them was able to pay anything; so he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him the more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the man who owed the most.” Jesus said to him, “You have decided rightly.”

Turning to the woman, Jesus said to Simon, “You see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet; but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she, since I came in, has not ceased tenderly to kiss my feet. You did not pour any oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I say to you, her sins, though they be many, are forgiven, for she has loved much. He to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And the other guests began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go and be at peace.”

They said to Him, ’Rabbi . . . where are You staying?’ He said to them, ’Come and see’ —John 1:38-39

Where our self-interest sleeps and the real interest is awakened. “They . . . remained with Him that day . . . .” That is about all some of us ever do. We stay with Him a short time, only to wake up to our own realities of life. Our self-interest rises up and our abiding with Him is past. Yet there is no circumstance of life in which we cannot abide in Jesus.

“You are Simon . . . . You shall be called Cephas” (John 1:42). God writes our new name only on those places in our lives where He has erased our pride, self-sufficiency, and self-interest. Some of us have our new name written only in certain spots, like spiritual measles. And in those areas of our lives we look all right. When we are in our best spiritual mood, you would think we were the highest quality saints. But don’t dare look at us when we are not in that mood. A true disciple is one who has his new name written all over him— self-interest, pride, and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.

Pride is the sin of making “self” our god. And some of us today do this, not like the Pharisee, but like the tax collector (see Luke 18:9-14). For you to say, “Oh, I’m no saint,” is acceptable by human standards of pride, but it is unconscious blasphemy against God. You defy God to make you a saint, as if to say, “I am too weak and hopeless and outside the reach of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.” Why aren’t you a saint? It is either that you do not want to be a saint, or that you do not believe that God can make you into one. You say it would be all right if God saved you and took you straight to heaven. That is exactly what He will do! And not only do we make our home with Him, but Jesus said of His Father and Himself, “. . . We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Put no conditions on your life— let Jesus be everything to you, and He will take you home with Him not only for a day, but for eternity.