No one else has ever claimed they can forgive sins except Jesus. The concept was incomprehensible at the time. Why did Jesus say this? Not once or twice, but all the time. Jesus’ response to this question was just as unconventional. He asks those that questioned him, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Then even more puzzling, Jesus picks out a tax collector in the crowd and goes to his house to eat with him and other sinners. Tax collectors were so hated at the time that they were called out separately from all the other sinners. They were a special class of sinners. Can you imagine how Matthew the Tax Collector must have felt when Jesus picked him? Elated! He was the kid nobody liked, never got picked for the team, or the bully everyone hated.

The sinners associated with Jesus were probably some of the worst people of that time – thieves, con artists, prostitutes, rapists, the undesirables of society. People could not believe Jesus would associate with them, let alone eat with them! Today this would be equivalent to drug addicts, alcoholics, sex abusers, AIDS patients, the homeless. So while we are trying to be good and do all the right things, or busy taking stands against this sin or that one, hiding our own sin (if we are truly honest), Jesus is over there eating dinner with some of these same people!

  Matthew 9:2-13 ~ Dining with Sinners and Tax Collectors  

 Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”   At this, some of the scribes said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”  But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?  For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”  And he got up and went home. 

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Mercy not sacrifice says it all. This is how we should live our lives. When Jesus says that he did not come to call the righteous, he is referring to those who pretend to be righteous and therefore are not willing to repent. We must first admit we are sinners before we can repent and accept a Savior. Repentance is not considered a negative thing but a very positive thing!

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About the Author

Sue McCusker is a writer, Bible teacher, and web developer who loves to share the stories of life, hope, and faith she sees around her every day. She has written for Guideposts and  Angels on Earth magazines, and teaches the story of God in women's Bible study.

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