As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him' follow me.' And he got up and followed him. Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples,' why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?' When he heard this he replied ' it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. go and learn the meaning of the words
mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice
..and indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.'
Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for thos as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them-fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of the religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.
This passage should be read, reread, and memorized. Every Christian generation tries to dim the blinding brightness of its meaning because the gospel seems too good to be true. We thinks salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgements at those who have been soiled by life.
In effect, Jesus says the kingdom of His Father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for those who feel they posess the state secret of salvation. The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger,homlier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pinch of moral struggle.
-Brennan Manning - The Ragamuffin Gospel