Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners, and eats with them." And he spake this parable unto them, saying, . . .
Tax collectors of Jesus day were hated and despised by the Jews, mainly because they were usually fellow Jews working for Rome. Jesus was seen eating with “publicans,” another name for tax collectors or tax gatherers which the Pharisees and scribes complained about. Tax collectors were always under the suspicion of being extortioners (the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats) and they probably were guilty in most instances.
When Jesus was seen having dinner at a tax collector’s house named Matthew, along with other sinners, the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ choice of companions. Jesus’ response: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. . . . I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13). Jesus did not come to save the “good,” self-righteous people, but He came to those who knew they were not good and who freely admitted they needed salvation. Matthew was one of those whom Jesus saved. When the Lord called Him, he left his tax collecting position and followed Christ immediately (Matthew 9:9).
Because the Pharisees were grumbling against Him, Jesus told them a parable about a lost sheep which illustrated the joy God has in one repentant sinner. He began the parable with a loving shepherd seeking out one lost sheep. It was the shepherd’s job to care for the sheep and make sure that none were lost, hurt, or killed. Jesus said, “there would be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Though there was murmuring on earth over Jesus spending time with “sinners,” in heaven, there was great jubilation among the angels and pleasure with God over one sinner that repents.
Lord, thank You for seeking out sinners and saving me.