THIS WEEK: You…A Tax Collector…A ‘Sinner’…A Pharisee…A Teacher
It seems like a start to a joke…One day a tax collector, sinner, Pharisee and teacher of the law were standing around…
A strange mix of individuals, to be sure. One worked for the Romans. Another was a public offender. One prided himself as a religious elite and another respected as a religious instructor. Some thought they were better than the others. And the others knew their place in their society. But the day they all gathered around Jesus, they all had one thing in common – whether they realized it or not… they all needed Jesus.
Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
It shocked the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus would hang out with them. Normally they were the outcast. They were ready to listen to what Jesus had to say. However, it was the muttering crew that compelled Jesus to speak.
He wanted the whole group to understand his heart. His heart didn’t look at the tax collector and condemn him of greed. His heart didn’t look at the ‘sinner’ and condemn her of adultery (or some other public breaking of the religious law). His heart didn’t even call out the Pharisee for his pride or the teacher of the law for his arrogance (at least in this encounter!).
He told a simple story they all could get…if they had ears to listen.
Luke 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Jesus was ready to initiate a party in heaven in the honor of anyone of them. If the tax collector repented of his greed and turned to Jesus for true treasure…Party! If the ‘sinner’ repented of his actions and turned to Jesus for forgiveness and power to leave a life of sin…Party! If the Pharisee’s pride was crushed and he turned to Jesus in humility of heart…Party! If the teacher of the law turned from arrogance to receive Jesus as the Messiah of which the law pointed…Party!
Jesus was standing in the middle of this group because each one of them was the lost sheep that was worthy of his effort to reach and save from spiritual destruction.
The same is true for you…because you are as important as any of those standing within earshot of Jesus that day. The day his grace connected with your heart is the day Jesus was more than ready to tell the angels in heaven to start a party in your honor!
Apply: How did Jesus connect his grace to you? Take time to thank the one he used to reach you. Who is someone you know disconnected from Jesus? How might Jesus use you to trigger a party in heaven for him or her?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the all out effort you engaged in to reach me with your love and grace. Give me the same heart to bring your love and forgiveness to one more. Amen.
Coming Tuesday-Friday…a tax-collector, ‘sinner’, Pharisee, and teacher of the law…Jesus engaged them all!