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Jesus -- the Guru #32

C. Jesus’ Attitude toward “Sinners”

Read Matthew 9:9-13, 11:19

9:9As 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.

10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

11:19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”


We saw that many women were forced into prostitution. Of course, the religious leaders condemned these women. The common term for them at the time was simply “sinners.” These victims of religious rules were made the paradigm of sinfulness! What was Jesus’ attitude toward these women in these passages?

Another group condemned by religious leaders was the tax collectors. Many of them deserved the condemnation. They cooperated with the Roman conquerors and became rich in the process. The practice was to gain the right to collect taxes by bidding in an auction. The Roman army would then protect the tax collector, and he could collect as much as he could. Of course, an unscrupulous tax collected would collect far more than he had bid at auction. They became wealthy at their own people’s expense. They were considered traitors to the nation.

Yet, Jesus called one of these infamous tax collectors (Matthew, the author of our gospel) to be one of His twelve apostles. Jesus would eat with them. In that culture (as in India), eating together in one’s home was an expression of respect and equality, almost as being one of the family.

In 9:10-11, we see that Matthew invited His old friends to his home to meet Jesus. To the great shock of the Pharisees (and, most probably, to the shock of the tax collectors and prostitutes) Jesus joined the dinner party. The Pharisees rightly called Jesus “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (11:19) Jesus was not looking at their past. He was looking at their future. Jesus was responding to people who wanted to become His disciples, not those who felt they were already “righteous” (v. 13) and didn’t need a spiritual Master. See also Matthew 21:31-32.

31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Have you ever wished that you had a Spiritual Master Who would help you to make a new start in life?

Jesus was breaking all the rules. In the eyes of the Pharisees, He was respecting people who should be despised. He was treating them as family members when they should be made to feel outside the family of the “righteous.” Jesus was destroying the Pharisees’ religion of judging and separating and despising (see Mt. 16:5, 12). Jesus must be stopped.

Have you ever felt judged and separated and despised in your religion? What does your Master Jesus say to you in such a situation?

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