More on trees! A couple weeks ago we showed you the Italian cypress and cedar trees we planted on some terraces. Now we have two pomegranates as well and a row of herbs including rosemary and sage.
Thoughts from Dr. Fleming
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners. (Mark 2:17)
Those Jews in Jesus’ day, like many people of faith today, who painstakingly worked hard at keeping on a path of sound morality and obedience to the law were not those whom Jesus came to call. He came to call sinners.
By the time of Jesus’ ministry there had been almost ninety years of Roman occupation. The lowest tax bracket during Roman occupation was about 80% of ones income. Some scholars have said first century Israel was probably the most heavily taxed nation the world has known. Only Jews had to pay this heavy tax rate; non-Jews did not have to pay at this rate.
Tax collectors were considered collaborators with the occupying Roman army. Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors and public sinners were considered to be in the same category and were despised by righteous people. Most of the tax collectors collected taxes by intimidation.
Tax collectors were not salaried by Rome. The tax collector’s position was given to the highest bidder. If you bid on the position and said you would give Rome 300,000 shekels at the end of the year and the next highest bid was 250,000 shekels, the 300,000-shekel bid got the job. Anything the tax collector was able to extract from the people over the 300,000 shekel bid, he was able to keep. Thus, the tax collector attempted to collect as much as he could from everyone. This system inherently lent itself to abuse.
Zacchaeus had the tax collection booth at the county line between the Jordan valley and Judea. You would cross the Jordan, get off the little raft pulled by rope across the Jordan, and there was Zacchaeus with his hand out to collect a frontier crossing tax. Many rabbis taught that if you ate with a tax collector, you could not be a witness in court for the rest of your life.
Jesus invited himself to a tax collector’s house. Why? Zacchaeus would never have dreamed of inviting Jesus to his house for a meal, since he did not believe Jesus would come.
So Jesus had to invite himself. Zacchaeus might have said in repentance during the dinner, “If I have collected more than I should have, I will return fourfold.” There was probably a lot of coughing and sputtering by others in attendance.
This gives us some idea of the level of extortion involved in the tax collecting business. Jesus came for public sinners and tax collectors.
Some of Jesus’ disciples probably got letters from their parents, after the event at Zacchaeus’ house, advising them that if they continued to go to that school they were not going to pay their tuition anymore. It was a very controversial thing for Jesus to go to a tax collector’s house for a meal.
Jesus gave the impression that he preferred the presence and company of sinners rather than the righteous. Jesus is saying that if you believe you do not need a doctor, then he cannot help you. If you know that you are in need of God’s forgiveness, then Jesus is there for you.
This is another way of saying by grace through faith you are saved. Jesus is talking about how we are all sinners and in need of grace, but he does not talk about it in an overt way.
Luke 7:34 says of Jesus, ” . . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
Luke 15:2 says, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” This means Jesus forgives them.
This high moral demand of righteousness found in the teachings of Jesus is associated with his love and forgiveness. Being a brilliant teacher he does not say you are saved by grace through faith. This spells it out too clearly. He wants you to think about it.