Jesus Loves Sinners: Sitting in the Tax Booth Part 5

Have you ever had someone stare at you with focus and intensity?

Luke 5:27-32, Part 5


After that, He (Jesus) went out and noticed (literally, ‘gazed intently’) a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth. 


A friend of mine recently pointed out the fact that Levi was sitting in his tax booth when Jesus fixed his gaze upon him. Wow! Think about that … Matthew was sitting in the middle of his sin, in the tax booth, his place of greed, thievery, and exhortation. Jesus fixed his attention on him and called him to follow Him when he was smack dab in the middle of sinning. 


Consider the process of Jesus calling Levi, the sinner, to be a follower of His: 


  • Without Matthew realizing it, while he was lurking in the shadows, catching a glimpse of Jesus around the village, listening to His teachings from afar, undoubtedly feeling remorse and undeserving of Jesus’ grace … while all of that was happening, Jesus was quietly and intentionally drawing Matthew’s heart with lovingkindness. 


I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3 


  • Secondly, Jesus didn’t wait for Matthew to go to the synagogue, make a spiritual sacrifice, or perform a spiritual ritual. Jesus didn’t wait for him to do something righteous or spiritual. Jesus went to him when he is in the middle of his greatest sin. Jesus goes to him while he is extorting his countrymen; while he’s taking money from the poor; while he is arranging to break the leg of a man who owes him money. Jesus fixes His gaze on Matthew while he is in his tax booth; the place where Matthew lives out the wickedness and greed of his heart. 


But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 


  • Thirdly, Jesus sets His attention upon Matthew in such a way that Matthew can’t avoid the situation. (Have you ever had someone stare at you with intensity and absolute focus)? Matthew is sitting in the tax booth, minding his own business, going about his business within his own domain of darkness and sin, the place where the worst of him is evident to all … and Jesus stares. AWKWARD! 


Behold, O Lord, You know it all! You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me … Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? … Even if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me.  Psalms 139:4b-12 


  • Lastly, while Matthew is captured by the attention of Jesus – at the moment when nothing is hidden, when his sin is wide open and embarrassingly exposed – JESUS calls him out in lovingkindness, compassion, and care. Jesus says, follow me; be my disciple, be my follower, be my friend. 


Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28 


Change of Scenes: Present Day


After months of Jesus tugging on the heart of the alcoholic and meth addict, with love and grace one evening, at midnight, when the addict is drunk and high, Jesus fixes His gaze upon his beloved with love and compassion. Strangely, Jesus isn’t harsh and condemning. But instead, just like the father of the prodigal, Jesus runs toward her, even while she is drunk and high, and hugs her and kisses her. In love and compassion, Jesus whispers in her ear, it’s time to follow me. Let’s go!


Jesus loves her where she is, at her worst, in the depth of pain, despair, and rebellion.  


Jesus continues to speak to her by saying, ‘I’m not going to wait for you to get your life right; or wait until you go to church; or wait for you to meet me on holy ground. Right now, in your deepest shame and worst situation, I’m calling you; follow me. I want you to be my disciple, my follower, my child, my friend. 


At the same time, in another place, Jesus fixes his attention on the prostitute, the stripper, the transvestite, the pimp … on the proud, the arrogant, the greedy … the thief, the gangster, the multiple-felon … the porn star, the porn addict, the sex addict.


When I say Jesus loves sinners, I mean Jesus really does love sinners. He goes after them, even while they are stuck deep in their sin.


When we are lost in our sin, we avoid houses of worship, we avoid our Christian grandmother, we avoid religion of any kind. We avoid such places because we think God resides in those places and we don’t want to face Him. We think we can avoid Him by avoiding spiritual places or spiritual people or spiritual environments. We are mistaken! Jesus draws sinners to Himself while they are still sinners. He will find you when you are sitting in your own tax booth; He goes where you reside, He fixes His eyes upon you when you are in the middle of your darkest deeds. 




Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them. So, He told them this parable, saying, what man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Luke 15:1-7 


Are you the lost sheep of this story? Are you running from God? Are you hiding in dark places? Jesus will go after you in love. He goes to your place of sin not to condemn; he goes to remove condemnation. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, I do not condemn you.  


Read these six words very, very slowly. Let them sink in deep! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more! Romans 5:20 


Have you ever felt like Jesus could never forgive you? It’s time to put those feelings behind you. It’s time to draw near to Him, not run from Him. It’s time to say to Jesus, help me, forgive me, save me


Father God, because of your great love and compassion, You sent your Son to save sinners. When I was living in sin, you died for me; when I was lost, You found me; when I cried for help, you ran to me, hugged me and kissed me. I am forever grateful.