Jesus Loves Sinners: It’s not who you were, it's who you will be! Part 4

Ever look at someone and say, ‘they’ll never be a Christian’?

Luke 5:27-32 


Hello! I’m with the IRS and I’m here to help! 


What is your perception of people who work for the IRS? I don’t know anyone who works for the agency. I’m sure there are many good and kind people there but I must admit, I don’t have a favorable sense for tax collectors. I know it’s legal, and it’s my obligation to pay my full share, which I have always done, but I don’t always feel good about paying taxes.  


The Jewish people have always paid taxes and tithes. I discuss the Jewish obligation for tithes and taxes as well as the freedom of giving under Christ in my book, Wealth, Prosperity, and Giving.


But, during the time of Christ, when the Romans ruled over the Jewish nation, taxes were a heavy burden for the Jews. The Romans used a system of selling tax-collection franchises. These franchises were purchased by the highest bidder from the Roman Herod, Antipas. At the time of Christ, the system worked something like this: 


  • An employed tax-collector would sit in a booth and collect taxes from individuals within his jurisdiction. He would keep a portion and pass on the rest of it to the Tax Franchise owner. 
  • The franchise owner would take a portion and pass on an allocated amount to Herod Antipas. 
  • Herod would take a portion and pass on an allocated amount to Rome. 


When Jesus fixed His gaze on Matthew, he was sitting at a tax booth collecting taxes. He was on the front-lines of the tax collecting system. The people could put a face to the burdensome system by looking at Matthew as he sat in the booth.


Tax collectors were the worst of the worst in Jewish society. They were the dregs of society and hated above all others. Most likely, Peter, James, and John hated Matthew personally because his booth was set up near the seashore where the fisherman fulfilled their vocational duties. Matthew was not hidden like the franchise owner. He was in the booth, seen by all, collecting taxes and, most likely, sending out thugs to collect overdue taxes from the poor. 


Matthew was a Jew, collecting taxes from his fellow Jews, keeping a portion, and sending the rest to Rome. He was a sell-out. He was a Judas of sorts before the term ‘Judas’ was well known. He extorted from his people in order to pay the Romans and pockets a hefty sum himself. 


So, of all people, why would Jesus care about Matthew? Why would He draw him in love? Why would he want to save such a vile man? Jesus fixed his gaze on Matthew. Jesus didn’t see the face of a selfish and greedy tax collector. He didn’t see Matthew for who he had been; He saw him for who he would be. He saw Matthew as a beloved follower and disciple.  


When Jesus fixed his gaze on the man behind the tax booth, He saw Matthew preaching the gospel with wisdom and boldness. He envisioned with His mind’s eye, Matthew researching and writing the gospel account of Himself, the Messiah. Jesus could see Matthew, through a window of irony, writing a gospel account that is primarily directed toward a Jewish audience. 


Matthew would write words of life to the people he previously swindled and extorted. 


Wow! Jesus sees us not for how we have sinned and acted in the past, but instead in Christ; clean, pure and useful to Him for His glory. When Jesus fixed His gaze on Matthew, He saw the simple faith of a wretched sinner and the fullness of God’s grace covering him with forgiveness and mercy.  


Our past does not equal the future. My beloved Pastor, who is loved by many and faithfully preaches the Word of God weekly, verse-by-verse, is a former addict; alcohol and meth. His past is his past. His ‘now’ is that he is loved and useful to God. When Jesus is involved, past results are not indicative of future results. Jesus changes everything! 


When Jesus reaches in and releases the power of His grace and mercy into the heart of a sinner, no matter how bad the person is, all that is needed is a simple call to follow. Jesus said, FOLLOW ME, and he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 


Father, the stories you have given us in the Bible are amazing. Matthew’s story is the story of redemption that you have also written in our lives. Our stories are not stories of how we pulled ourselves up and transformed our own lives. Our stories are all about YOU; and how You changed us from the inside out. Thank you for writing the stories of Redemption in our lives. Thank you that You have caused us to be born again and made us new creations, in Christ. We are forever grateful.