"Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" (Luke 15:1,2 NASB)I love these two verses that set the scene for the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son in Luke 15. In fact, each time I reach this chapter in my Bible reading, I get stuck on these two verses and find it hard to move on. Here's why:
- I'm blown-away by God's goodness to me. I'm a sinner. Just like the men that the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about, I'm a sinner. I'm a sinner. I'm a S.I.N.N.E.R! And yet the whole of God's word tells me that Jesus is willing to receive me, just as he was willing to receive the tax collectors and notorious sinners in the verse above. That just takes my breath away; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords has a place of fellowship for me. (See John 14:21, 23)
- As I let it soak in that Jesus is willing to receive me, I then find I want to be like the tax collectors and the sinners mentioned in Luke 15:1. I realize that a desire to be like a tax collector sounds a bit odd. But look at the men's longings. They're elbowing each other for a place near Jesus. They want to listen to Him. I want the desire to come to Jesus and listen to Him to be hallmarks of my life. In fact, I want my yearning to come to Jesus and listen to Jesus to burn a bit more brightly each day in my heart.
- In order for the tax collectors and sinners to want to come and listen to Jesus, there just had to be something irresistible about being near the Son of God--that is if you were humble. The religious establishment represented in Luke 15:2 missed the wonder of Jesus due to pride. They saw themselves as good and "those other guys" as bad. Jesus saw each man's heart.
- Jesus very demeanor, let alone His message of forgiveness of sin, must have been so winsome, so compelling, so loving that those who were used to being repulsed by society laid down their defensiveness to come...and listen. I want to know this Jesus. What a King!
So you can see why I get stuck on these two verses. I see not just "tax collectors and sinners" but me. And...I see a Saviour who saves based on His goodness, not my on effort to clean up my life. So, I want to come near to Jesus and I want to listen to Him. Thankfully, Jesus welcomes sinners to His table, including me.