Posts Tagged With: tax collector

Luke 19: Belong then Believe

I grew up with the thinking that all people respond to God for the first time the same way.  I guess this came from the pattern theology that I grew up with that likes to reduce everything to simplified formulas that are binding on all.  While that is neat and tidy, I don’t tend to believe that anymore.  As I read the Bible, I see people responding to God for the first time in many different ways, often depending on who they are and what has happened and what the situation calls for.  Sure, there are general trends but it isn’t as nicely tied up with a bow as I once thought.

I am drawn today to how Zacchaeus responds to Jesus in this, their first encounter of faith.  He is “very rich” (19:2).  Think back one chapter, to Friday, and the story of the rich young ruler.  Different from that man, Zacchaeus is not told to sell everything he has and follow Jesus.  Yet, the attitude of this tax collector and the rich young ruler are quite different.  That latter went away without change while Zacchaeus is quick to make financial, concrete amends for his life of shaking down his neighbors.

We are never told why Zacchaeus is drawn to Jesus.  Is he wanting to follow Jesus as a disciple of this new rabbi who has come to town?  Is he just a bystander wanting to get a glimpse of this man in the news?  Is he drawn to the healings and exorcisms that Jesus brings about?  Is he in need of some healing we are not aware of?  We simply do not know.  He quickly responds ethically, so that might indicate he was responding with faith.

I am struck by how Jesus accepts this tax collector and is willing to dine with him at his house, no insignificant gesture in their time and place as table fellowship connoted unqualified acceptance, even before Zacchaeus has done anything more than climb a tree.  Maybe Jesus is making the first gesture here.

Then Zacchaeus does what can only be described as repentance.  He turns in a very practical way from his life of deceit:

“Look, Master,” he said, “I’m giving half my property to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I’m giving it back to them four times over.” (19:8)

Jesus response is unmistakable:

Today, salvation has come to this house. (19:9)

Zacchaeus has launched off in new, uncharted territory of faith.  He will follow Jesus, not his own conniving.  He will stand for righteousness and even fall over himself to make sure people around him know it.  Jesus seeing this repentance and Zacchaeus receives a new label: “saved.”

Interest ~ Acceptance ~ Repentance ~ Salvation

That is a pretty good flow.  No need to turn that into another pattern.  Not every person will respond this way, but it is a good reminder to us that for many people that we wish to reach in this world — especially those marginalized in society — acceptance from the Body of Christ often has to precede the lifestyle change and submission we wish to see in their lives.  Like many are saying these days, some have to belong before they decide to really believe.

What did you see anew in this chapter?

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Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Matthew 9: Bring a Friend Along

Caravaggio, "The Calling of St. Matthew"

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting in the tax-office.

“Follow me!” he said to him.  And he rose up and followed him.

When he was at home, sitting down to a meal, there were lots of tax-collectors and sinners there who had come to have dinner with Jesus and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” (8:9-11)

Matthew wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate for a disciple to an itinerant Jewish rabbi.  He would have been a Jew, but many would have labeled him a traitor.  As a tax collector he was working for the enemy, the Romans.  Good Jews wanted out from under the Roman thumb, and Matthew was only perpetuating foreign tyranny.  Not to mention the assumption that Matthew was likely skimming a bit of the tax money off the top for himself, just like every other tax collector did.  So just the fact that Jesus would call Matthew to be a disciple was unexpected.

It is what Matthew did next that struck me today.

Matthew is leaving his life as a tax collector.  He is about to start a very different kind of life, dissimilar in ways he probably doesn’t even realize.  Still, he calls his friends to his house for one last party.  We can tell from verse 11 that this group of friends was composed of fellow tax collectors and other unsavory people.

Yes, Matthew is leaving his profession and even this town.  But he doesn’t just drop everything.  He is starting a new life, but he chooses to include his friends in this new life too.  It seems he wants his old friends to meet his new rabbi.

Did some of these friends become disciples too?  Did they come along with Jesus and Matthew?  We don’t know, but we do known that Matthew’s first act of witnessing was to his very own friends.  He wanted his friends to know Jesus too.

Good reminder.

What struck you in this active chapter?  

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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