Saving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

          And after these things he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there was a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And the scribes and Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5: 27-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Tax collectors in Israel were Jewish citizens who had ‘sold-out’ to the Roman Empire; and thus turned against their own people.  The Roman taxes were often severe, and tax collectors earned their living by over-taxing the people; in turn, they were passionately despised.  The religious leaders were enraged because Jesus was eating with these types of sinners.  Jewish meals were extremely intimate affairs; those who dined together dipped into the same bowls and drank from the same cups.  Most Jews were very careful who they ate with because they falsely believed that sin could be transferred from one person to another through the sharing of food.  The Son of God however, was not concerned with being contaminated by the sins of others.  Instead, his purity was infecting and cleansing the evil hearts of those who dined with him.  The messiah’s purpose was to seek and to save the lost; to bring light into the lives of those who dwelled in darkness; he came to heal the sick and to restore to fellowship, those who had turned away from the paths of righteousness.

          In 1464 a block of Marble weighing nearly 9 tons was shipped to the Cathedral of the Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy.  From it, an artist was commissioned to carve a massive sculpture of a young King David.  It is said the artist abandoned the project because the piece of marble contained too many flaws (or veins—veins in marble are weaker than the surrounding stone, which can cause it to crack and break.)  So the defective block sat in the yard for nearly a decade; until another artist was commissioned to continue the work; apparently he also foresaw problems with the veining and walked away from the project.  The scarcely carved stone block was again pushed to the back of the yard where the sun, wind, and rain beat down on it for nearly 25 years.  Then in 1501 a 29 year old sculptor named Michelangelo looked at the stone with optimistic intentions.  To him, it wasn’t just some aged block of marble taking up space; neither did he reject it as a defective throw away, fit only for the trash heap.  Unlike the other sculptors, Michelangelo saw the giant slab, not as it was, but as it could be.  He accepted the commission to complete the work because, from it, he believed that he could create a masterpiece.  In 1504, after nearly 3 years of work, the Statue of David was completed; immediately it was marveled over; even the harshest of critics were astonished by its timeless majesty.  Today, the statue of David resides in Florence Italy, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful marble sculptures ever created.

          Like Michelangelo, Jesus Christ is a master craftsman; his purpose is not just to take good people and make them better, but to take the worst people and transform them into divine works of art.  As followers of Christ, our duty is to reach out to those who have been rejected.  Rather than turning our backs on sinners, we are called to embrace them in love.  We must not see sinners for who they are, but rather, for who they might become (with the assistance, love, and attention of an all-powerful Creator.)  Reach out to the lost; make friends with the weak; dive into the trash heap and pull out those who have been discarded.  He has sent us into the world to find the lost, and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Are you willing to be an instrument in the hands of God; a tool He can use to accomplish a masterpiece?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, may we seek out those who are sick.  Give us a heart for the outcast, that we would see possibility where others see only failure.  We lay our lives at Your feet; may we be Your messengers; may we bring the good news of salvation and reconciliation to all those who dwell in darkness.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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