The Well Hated Tax Collector
There is no one hated by a nation quite as much as an enemy collaborator. The tax collectors in Israel at the time of Christ were the leaches that sucked the financial blood out of the hard working laborers of Israeli society and transferred it into the coffers of the occupying Roman Empire, taking as much as they could for themselves.
The tax collector made a sizable living. But part of his pay was the derision, disgust and isolation of his community. In rigid defiance he plodded through the condemning faces, the whispers, the threats and rage, multiplying his wealth and the emptiness of his soul.
Here comes the new preacher from Nazareth, offering as his credentials, miracles, physical healing, and a voice of authority that even demonic presences obey. Having spent another day plundering the strongholds of hell over His people, He calls another to follow Him. Who would it be this time? It is Matthew, a tax collector!
But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home.
When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matt. 9:6-13
The great physician calls to all who are sick, knowing that the disease of sin is terminal regardless of the kind of sin, degree of sin, or any biased human method of quantifying it. All have fallen short of the glory of God, and all are in desperate need of His love and forgiveness. The tax collectors that followed Christ took their place in the long line of notorious sinners who were grateful for the abundance of mercy that God offered and continues to offer to all who will call upon His name.
Part of their message must be that if God can forgive an enemy collaborator, He can forgive me. In the end, and by Godís standard, have we not all collaborated with the true enemy of heaven? Havenít we all been self-serving if we were honest enough to admit it? Thank God there is room for the tax collectors, and the sinners of all kinds in the Kingdom of Heaven, because that means that there is also room for you and me.