Look, a Friend of Tax-collectors and Sinners


Image result for Jesus at zacchaeus house images
An image showing Jesus eat with tax-collectors. (Image credit: Free Bible Images)


Daily Devotion Sunday July 9, 2017

“Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”

Matthew 11:19

There is no other day of the week I look forward to other than Sunday. This is not necessarily because Sunday is so thought by many to be a “Holy Day” but on this day, is when I have the joy to a fellowship with brethren in a communal and communion worship. This Sunday morning after having had an exhaustive night of work, at 10:30am (CET), I was ready to board the bus on my way to church. In my five minutes’ walk from home to the bus stop, the Spirit of the Lord reminded me of God’s love to a wretched sinner as me. Without shame, I started singing of this love in the words of Matt Redman’s 10,000 reasons aloud. In another five minutes’ walk from the bus stop of my destination to St. Edmund’s Church, Oslo, I continued audibly singing this redeeming love of God. My heart blessed the Lord in these words of the chorus of Matt Redman’s hymn as I sung:

Bless the Lord oh my soul, Oh my soul, Worship His Holy name. Sing like never before, Oh my soul, I’ll worship Your Holy name[1]

The second verse of this hymn ministered so much to me on God’s love. I sung it over and over in these words;

“You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger. Your name is great, and Your heart is kind. For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing. Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.”

As it usually is the case at St. Edmund’s, I was welcomed by a great smile by the sideswoman (usher) and received a hymn book, prayer book and the day’s service sheet. Sitting towards the back of the church, in prayer, I praised God for his love and asked him to reveal this love more to me in the communion service. I turned to the service sheet on which were printed the bible texts of the service only to read on the incredible love of God.

In the first reading (Romans 7:15-25), I read Paul describing himself as a wretched sinner who cannot be saved by anything but the Love of God through his son Jesus Christ. Paul exclaims and asks; “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” who “came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost” (Rom. 7:24-25; I Tim. 1:15 NRSV).

Yes, Jesus came to this world to save sinners, that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). His coming to save the world is nothing other than the Great Love of God for mankind. He lived and ministered, and dwelled among us. By his love, he reached out to all sorts of people including tax collectors and prostitutes.

As I turned to the Gospel reading on my service sheet, I read about him (Christ) being labelled a “friend of sinners.” Of him they said; “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). The phrase “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” best describes Jesus’ mission of coming to us. He didn’t come for the righteous, he came for sinners. And, all mankind has sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

Joseph M. Scriven could not have written better about Jesus than to write; “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grieves to bear.”

Jesus indeed is a friend of sinners, to whom we can cast our sins and grieves. He relates with sinners not to encourage and protect their rights to sin but to reveal God’s Grace and Love to sinners such that they can be saved from sin. His relationship with sinners is a transformational relationship.

On his encounter with Matthew the tax-collector, Matthew was transformed to a disciple. His encounter with another tax collector—Zacchaeus brought salvation into the latter’s house (Luke 19:9). He welcomes sinners to himself saying; “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

About fifteen years ago (early 2002), this very invitation made me to realise how I was burdened by the yoke of sin. Despite being religious, like Paul, I realised that I was a wretched man. I was yoked to sin and often obeyed the commands of sin. I realised that I needed to be saved from this burden of sin. So, I responded to Christ’s invitation and found rest in him.

Because Jesus is a friend of sinners, he found me and bailed me out of the burden of sin. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” who being “a friend of tax-collectors and sinners” came to redeem us from the burden sin. Let us therefore take his yoke upon us and learn from him, for he is gentle and humble in heart, and in him, we will find rest for our souls. Amen! Rev. J


[1] The lyrics of this hymn has been accessed from http://www.metrolyrics.com/10000-reasons-lyrics-matt-redman.html

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture Quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV) 2011.

Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is the founding Director of this online New Dawn Ministries. He holds a Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues from the Norwegian School of Theology. Julius is also a pastor in the Anglican Diocese of Ma’di and West Nile of the Church of Uganda. Help Donate here to support the New Dawn Ministries. You can also support this ministry by purchasing Julius’ popular books Triumphing Over Odds and Suffering and Pain? from Amazon. Thank you.

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