Face Against The Glass
When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17 WEB.
Jesus walked up to a tax collector's booth in the fishing village of Capernaum, and to the shock of His disciples, He told the tax man sitting there to "Follow Me!" Then Matthew, the tax collector, immediately got up, left everything, and followed Jesus. The Jewish people rightly thought of the tax collectors as traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and they had the force of Roman soldiers behind them to make people pay taxes. They were the most visible Jewish collaborators with Rome.
The Romans used a tax farming system where people bid for the tax-collecting contract in a region. For example, many tax collectors might want to have a tax contract for a city like Capernaum. So the Romans awarded the contract to the highest bidder. Then the man collected taxes, paid the Romans what he promised, and kept the remainder. Everything he collected above what he paid Rome was pure profit.
Tax collectors like Matthew could stop anyone on the road, make them unpack all of their bundles, and then charge whatever they wanted in tax. If the person couldn't pay, the tax collectors sometimes would offer to loan them money at a tremendous rate, thus pulling the people further into their greedy hands. They were trained extortionists. Quite naturally, they attracted a criminal element of thugs and enforcers'the scum of society.
Tax collecting Jews couldn't serve as judges or witnesses in a court session. They were excommunicated from the synagogues. They had their own special social status, well below prostitutes, thieves, and sinners. They were the lowest of the low, and the Jewish people despised them. That's why Jesus' dealing with Levi (Matthew), the tax collector, was so remarkable.
This tax collector became an Apostle of Jesus and later wrote the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9). Like Simon was called Peter, Levi was named Matthew. Jesus saw the heart of Matthew beating inside of Levi, the tax collector, while people didn't. When Jesus called, Matthew immediately rose and followed Him, even though he had a very lucrative position. Matthew would have been the wealthiest of the disciples.
Matthew was so excited that he made a great feast for Jesus, and he invited a large crowd of his tax collecting friends to come as well. While Jesus reclined at the table with them, the highly religious Jewish Pharisees stood outside and complained to His disciples, saying: "Why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30)?" Jesus answered, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The highly religious shunned such people and avoided them, while Jesus left the religious camp and intentionally sought out the lost and ate with them. Jesus looked forward to spending time with the lowest of the low, the lost, the outcast, the black sheep. He actively sought them out.
Zacchaeus was another tax collector on another day. He was too short to see Jesus over the crowd, so he climbed up a tree to get a better view. Jesus walked right up to the tree, stopped, looked up, and told him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house" (Luke 19:5).
Again the holy onlookers complained. Who does He think He is? Doesn't He know that He should be out here with us? They couldn't eat with sinners. So they stood outside the house, looking in at Jesus, and they watched as He ate another great meal without them. Instead of God coming back to you, you must return to Him.
What happened to cause people to look down on God's behavior with disdain? This group of people had become so holy that they felt like the Son of God didn't live up to their standards. Jesus wasn't good enough for them. I am not sure what is wrong there, but something sure ain't right.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but we sometimes lose sight of this immutable fact. God hates sin, but He loves us sinners, and He welcomes us with wide-open arms. He actively seeks us out. I once was lost, but now I am found because He sought me out one night while playing music at a party.
Let us welcome everyone, and God will wash them as needed. The Holy Spirit will convict the heart of sin when the right time comes, but let us never exclude groups of people from our religion. Lest one day, we find that God is over there eating with them, and it's us on the outside with our faces pressed against the glass.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me see those in my path to whom I can show Your love. Protect me, guide me, give me the wisdom and tact to know when and where. Please speak to me and through me. Share Your heart with me today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen!
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