St Aubyn’s, 21st September 2017
Reading – Matthew 9:9-13
When I left university many years ago, I already had a sense that the Lord might be calling me to the ministry. As I looked ahead to what He might be asking me to do with my life, I knew that one day I might well become a vicar. But also I knew that before taking the next step, I needed some experience of the real world. So I did the accounts of used car dealers for the next six years, and I have to say, I learnt so much about human nature. I ended up dealing with one client who said he had two bank accounts; I had found twenty-six by the time I had finished dealing with him. And naturally enough such work led into some interesting discussions with what was then called the Inland Revenue. I ended up being the go between the client and the collector of taxes, and needless to say, their demands were never that welcome.
Tax collectors, of course, have never been popular. In Jesus’ day they were even more unpopular because they collected tax on behalf of the hated Roman army. They didn’t receive a salary like the civil servants of today, so they made their money by taking their own cut from people’s earnings. They were notorious for their greed and their corruption, and it was little wonder that everyone hated them.
Well, not quite everyone. There was one person who loved tax collectors and his name was Jesus. Throughout the gospels you read how Jesus loved the sorts of people that most thought were unlovable – tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, to name but a few examples. It seems that Jesus had a particular heart for those others had written off or thought beyond the pale.