Read: Mark 2:1 – 3:6
Focus: Mark 2:17
“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
When The Bible series first aired on TV two years ago, the scene showing Jesus calling Matthew as he tells the Parable of the Tax Collector (Luke 18:10 – 14) was one that really struck me at the time and has stayed with me ever since. I’m going to interrupt this regularly scheduled written devotional to venture into an area that is possible with interactive technology and embed that scene below. Please take a couple of minutes to watch it. (If for some reason your browser blocks embedded videos, the direct link to watch it on YouTube is here: https://youtu.be/kLCSVjHKQjk)
The “tax collector” was one of the most hated groups of people in ancient Israel. Historically, people have never been overly fond of paying money to a government; in this case, they were paying it to an especially oppressive regime – the Roman Empire. Tax collectors were seen to be the worst kind of traitors. Not only did they take money from their own people and give it to the hated Roman Empire, they also cheated their own people by collecting more than they were tasked with collecting and keeping the extra for themselves. Zacchaeus confessed his dishonesty when he put his faith in Jesus in Luke 19:8: ‘Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”’ This made the tax collectors very rich, which led to the New Testament Jews resenting them even more.
By calling a hated tax collector as one of His 12 disciples, Jesus was making a statement that was unexpected and quite shocking. To the Pharisees, who were prideful and exalted themselves for their supposed righteousness, the Parable of the Tax Collector was an insult and a threat, but to the people, this was an exciting message of hope.
Here are the words from Luke 18:9 – 14 that Jesus spoke in the video clip above:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Just as You called Matthew to come and follow You, I hear You calling me. Please help me to be humble so I can serve You the way You are calling me to serve. In Jesus’ name… Amen.