Jesus once told the priests and elders of his day something, which was to them, astounding. He said, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.”
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day just didn’t see what God was doing through John and Jesus. If they did they wouldn’t have been so confounded by Jesus wanting to hang out with these “lowly sinners.” Jesus said, “I didn’t come for the righteous but for sinners.” He came to bring salvation to them that didn’t have it all together. Those like these priests and elders thought they were okay. This brings me to what I think is the point here. The tax collectors and prostitutes were looked upon as less than and yet they were flocking to Jesus and being radically transformed through his touch.
Why does the one that society deems as a throw away tend to be the one that hears and receives the message of salvation so readily? I think the answer is obvious. Those that have the idea that they are okay have no reason to seek help. While those that are at the end of their rope will latch on to the message of hope. It appears that the tax collectors and prostitutes may have been fighting condemnation and guilt for so long they salivated at the offer of forgiveness and cleansing. They knew, I mean really knew, they could in no way fix their lives and were ready to allow Christ to step in and be Lord. Whereas the “I can’t believe he’s hanging out with them” crowd thought they were doing pretty well without Jesus. There is a certain amount of trying and failing that is necessary for most before they see the futility of their efforts.
Seeing the tax collectors and prostitutes running into the Kingdom of God before them did nothing to change the priests and elders. So Jesus is hitting them with both barrels here. He told them the “sinners” were entering in before them and it still didn’t seem to faze them. I have noticed this type of behavior is still prevalent today. If you share the gospel message in prison, jail or the Salvation Army there is almost always a response of some kind. It always produces thanksgiving, tears, joy, sorrow etc. In the average church setting most are not effected by the truth of how the gospel is changing these “less desirables.” The ones in dire straits are the ones with the most hunger, and the ones faithful to church services seem almost immune to the radical message of the gospel. God himself is offering you his righteousness in exchange for your sin! If that doesn’t move you in some way I’m not sure what will. I guess some folks just can’t see it.
Written by Louie