Reaching Sinners And Tax Collectors

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. “But I don’t ask for justice,? the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.? “But your son does not … More


As Jesus was going down the street He sees Matthew collecting taxes at a booth and invites him to be His disciple. Matthew immediately closed up his booth and began to follow the Lord (v. 9). It seems that not long after this Matthew held a dinner at his house and invited Jesus and His disciples as well as other friends to this dinner (v. 10). Many of these people were tax collectors and sinners. Probably he wanted to introduce them to the Savior.

The Jews hated tax collectors because they collected money to support the Romans and they often took in more than necessary and put the extra in their pockets. Therefore the Pharisees would never think of eating with such people and asked Jesus’ disciples why He was eating with them (v. 11). They said, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

Jesus’ response was that only sick people need a doctor and his ministry was directed toward those who realized they had a need (v. 12). The Pharisees did not think they were sinners (sick) so they would never come to the Lord who is the great Physician. Furthermore they did not have any compassion toward sinners. Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” He goes on to say that “He did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (v. 13). Throughout the Bible, God makes is clear that he wants our hearts to be turned toward Him and not that we merely offer lip service. He wants our genuine devotion, the kind that results in a change in lifestyle.


When is the last time I have had dinner with someone the Pharisees would label as a sinner? There are many around me who are just like the tax collectors and sinners of Jesus’ day. How will they ever come to know the Savior if I don’t show an interest in them and be a person who demonstrates mercy toward them.

Matthew 9:9-13 (English Standard Version)

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

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