THIS WEEK: You…A Tax Collector…A ‘Sinner’…A Pharisee…A Teacher
People say that the only things you can count on in life is death and taxes. However, I rarely hear of someone saying, “My best friend is an IRS agent or funeral director.” While not despised, few people desire to obtain each of these professions.
In Jesus’ day the community dreaded interacting with tax collectors. They were considered traitors because they were Jews working for the Roman government. They were resented because people hated paying taxes to the foreigners who ruled over them. They were also considered cheaters and often dishonest. They weren’t paid a wage, but were expected and encouraged to collect extra money to keep some for themselves, but often collected more than a reasonable wage would demand.
No wonder some in Jesus’ day refused to hang out with them.
But Jesus was different.
He saw past the occupation of the person to show concern for the heart of the person.
Jesus knew that it didn’t matter if a Jew chose to work for the Roman government, but he did know that a heart captivated by love of money could not be filled with the love of God. So he knew his love needed to reach the heart of each tax collector tempted to succumb to greed.
So he stepped outside the social norms. Dismissed the condescending remarks of the Pharisees and did what his heart compelled him to do…search for and find the lost tax-collector.
Matthew (also known as Levi) was one of those.
Mark 2:13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Like a master surgeon, Jesus went to those who were spiritually sick and applied the treatment of grace to change hearts from loving money to loving God.
The result of Jesus reaching the one…tax collector…Matthew? Matthew told his friends…Jesus changed them. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus…was a leader in the early spread of the Gospel. Matthew was inspired by the Spirit to record the life of Jesus in his Gospel…preserving Jesus’ life and ministry for us.
We too are the beneficiaries of Jesus taking time to reach the tax collector.
His concern for the tax collector simply reflects the same love he has for you too.
Apply: What blessing do you enjoy today from Jesus reaching Matthew? What blessing is God bringing to others by taking the time to reach you?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your concern for the tax-collectors. It shows your love for each soul and your concern that each heart loves you above all else. Help me to fight against love of money and love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Amen.