Today, let’s take a look at people who were considered the very pinnacle of sin in ancient Judea—the tax collectors; or, as the Bible calls them --Publicans. First, we have to understand that publicans, like our tax collectors today, were looked upon with disdain. Just imagine, it’s been 2000 years, and most people still don’t like tax collectors or those who work for them. However, in the time of Jesus it was utter sacrilege to be a tax collector; since, their job was closer in virtue to organized crime. It was similar to how mobsters skim money from local businesses within a designated area. —No one liked tax collectors; even their families were ashamed of what they did for a living. All tax collectors were outcasts within Judean society and considered the worst sinners; so, like true mobsters, they primarily socialized only with other tax collectors. Luke 5:26-32 says:
“And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things
today." And after these things He went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He said unto him, "Follow Me." And he left all, rose up, and followed Him. And Levi made Him a great feast in his own house; and there was a great company of publicans and others that sat down with them. But the scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, "Why do Ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”"
Or, one of my personal favorites found in Luke 19:2-7:
“And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus, who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that [way]. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house." And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw [it], they all murmured, saying, ‘That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.’”
Imagine for a moment, just how hated the tax collectors were. They were hated by the common people, the wealthy, the farmers, and the priests. --Everyone hated the tax collectors; and yet, Jesus saw fit to not only interact with them, but to literally invite Himself to dine and commune with the chief among them.
Let’s fast forward to today, what does this have to do with you? There are many people in and out of the body of Christ who we believe are chief sinners. They have done the unthinkable; murder, robbery, adultery, fornication, porn, etc. They have cursed, slandered, hated, committed genocide, profited from wars, slavery, starvation, and trafficking. Most of us consider them the chief among sinners; and yet, the Bible says:
"... Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference; for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, and all are justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:22-24
Like Levi and Zacchaeus, representatives of the chief among sinners in their day, God offers you Grace: "The free and unmerited Favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings; if, like them, you accept the calling of Jesus Christ. Christ calls YOU, by name, to follow Him. When you heed His call, you open the opportunity for Him to commune bountifully with you, bringing His Gifts, Blessings, Love and Forgiveness.
—So yes, like the chief among sinners, you too can dismiss the burden of past sins, and accept the full blessing of God’s unmerited favor!
Study Reference: Genesis 32:28, Luke 5:31-32, Luke 5:26-32, Luke 19:2-7
From: "The Chief Sinner." In The Master's Hands: 365 Daily Devotions For Everyday Living.
Copyright © 2014 by Lavona E. Campbell