Tax Collectors and Sinners - Luke 19

Tax Collectors and Sinners - Luke 19

As you read through Luke, notice how tax collectors and sinners are at the heart of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:32; 15:7, 10). Now, in Luke 19, we read the story of Zacheus. Of all the people there, Jesus chose to ‘go home’ with a tax collector! To go to his house, to recline at table with him and eat!

In line with such, the first-century concept of eating with someone is prominent in Luke’s telling of the gospel. Concerning table fellowship in the 1st century, Phillip Long commented:

“Table Fellowship in Judaism was a complex and important issue for the observant Jew, especially those of the Pharisaical party.   Jacob Neusner has studied the rabbinical traditions that appear to come from the Pharisees.  He notes that of the 341 rulings that go back to the Pharisees, 229 are related to table fellowship. For this reason, he says that the Pharisees might be considered an “eating club!”

This eating with people was more than just eating, it was a statement of acceptance. In a society that was obsessed with status, such eating and acceptance was a declaration of one’s own status and importance. Thus, the religious leaders, especially the Pharisees – the ‘separated ones’ – avoided any such table-fellowship with ‘sinners’.

 Jesus yet again seems to take a different view! He is willing to eat with sinners, but he is not willing to participate in their sins nor to allow them to continue in such a life without admonishing them. Jesus ate with them so that THEY could be changed, not Him. Such eating with them showed that they would be accepted by God WHEN they returned to God through faith and repentance.

While the Pharisees would never even entertain the idea of eating with such ‘sinners, Jesus walked a different path.

·       Luke 5:32 32 "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

·       Luke 15:7 7 "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

·       Luke 15:10 10 "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

·       Luke 19:10 10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Upon seeing this, we must ask ourselves which example we are following! Would we join Jesus?  Would you?