Everybody loves to take a shot at a Pharisee. They were self-righteous, hypocritical and thought of themselves as better than the common man.
“Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that He was associating with such sinful people--even eating with them!” – Luke 15:1-2
However, we face some of their same struggles. We’re more like them than we might think.
What if Jesus came into our world today, into our context and culture? What if, instead of coming to a big church, or our church, we heard about Jesus hanging out with the tax collectors in our community?
It’s hard to imagine where Jesus might go in our world, to seek out the notorious sinners. If He went to a bar, or nightclub, I don’t think we’d be too shocked or alarmed.
We’d probably wonder why He wasn’t coming to hang out in one of our small groups. We’d think, surely He knows how we help so many on the other side of town or in developing countries. And we’d wonder… “Why isn’t coming to see us?”
But, what if Jesus had dinner at a crack house, and was seen hanging out around town with known drug dealers? What if there were pictures of Him sitting with them, in conversations, laughing, smiling…having fun with “those people.”
If Jesus came and sought out the tax collectors of our day, wouldn’t we wonder, and begin to talk about Jesus? Wouldn’t we want our leaders to go to Him and ask Him what the heck He was doing?
Can we be real about our thoughts of others we see in the grocery store, at the airport, at concerts, or floating on the Guadalupe River? Do we judge? Do we think we’re better, or maybe we’re doing it right & they’re not? Are our thoughts a little pharisaical?
In the first two verses of Luke, the tragedy is the attitude of the Pharisees.
The tax collectors were broken, and knew it. They were hungry for anything Jesus had to say. They came to Him to learn, to be close to Love, and because they were drawn to Him.
The Pharisees came to hear Jesus looking for a way to condemn Him. They had ideas about what the Messiah would be like and they didn’t think Jesus measured up. They were blinded by their desire to win the approval of others, to appear righteous.
That’s not so hard to imagine, is it?
If we’re honest, we dismiss church leaders because they don’t measure up to our arbitrary standards. Maybe they’re not our kind of teacher because of their message, the clothes they wear, if they’re too emotional, if they yell or are too quiet.
After considering these first two verses, I realize I’m as much of a mess as the tax collectors. This is who the Bible says I am.
“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
When we’re humbled with the truth of our nature and our need for Christ, we begin to seek Jesus just like the notorious sinners of His day.
“The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” – Psalm 51:17
Through the rest of Luke 15, Jesus answers the accusations of the Pharisees. He shares three stories. They’re a simple and beautiful answer to the Pharisees question of why He was with sinners.
He came for the sinners. He has deemed them worthy of rescue and it’s why He pursues them.
In the same way, He came for you and me. He pursues us. Our best response is to be as honest as a broken tax collector with Him. Then we will begin to hear Him speak to us.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” – Matthew 5:3