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Delivered By
Pastor Ed Dinkins
Delivered On
September 6, 2015
Central Passage
Luke 18:9-14
First Sunday Service

Commentary - Data Source: "The Pharisee and The Tax Collector" by author Jodi Hopper

“But the tax collector stood not very far away. He would not even look up to heaven. He beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.’ - Luke 18:13

Do you remember what the Pharisee prayed in the temple? He said, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people.’

He also said, ‘I am not like robbers or those who do other evil things. I am not like those who commit adultery. I am not even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. And I give a tenth of all I get.’

The Pharisee was full of love and respect for himself. But he didn’t seem to have any love and respect for God and others. But the tax collector was quite different. He knew he was a sinner, and he was sincere in his desire to repent. The tax collector was honest about himself as he prayed. He was sad about the fact that he was a sinner, and he was humble in his need for God’s mercy. Do you think God liked what He heard in the tax collector’s prayer? Do you think God answered his prayer for mercy?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are hungry now. You will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are sad now. You will laugh.” - Luke 6:21

That sounds like a promise to the tax collector, doesn’t it? He is hungry for forgiveness, and he is sad that he has sinned against God. The tax collector knows that no one is more sinful than he is. And he knows that the only thing he can offer God is his faith and his willingness to repent and turn from his sin.

The Pharisees thought that the kingdom of God would never be home to the tax collector or anyone else who didn’t appear good or clean on the outside. The tax collector agreed that his sin was a problem. But unlike the Pharisee, he believed that the only way to overcome that sin problem was through God’s mercy, not through human effort.

“I tell you, the tax collector went home accepted by God. But not the Pharisee. Everyone who lifts himself up will be brought down. And anyone who is brought down will be lifted up.” - Luke 18:14

The two men behaved very differently in the temple that day, didn’t they? The Pharisee was proud and thought he was better than other people, including the tax collector who prayed nearby. The tax collector was humble and sad about his sin. He knew that only God could give the forgiveness and mercy he needed.  Jesus said that a person who lifts himself up will be brought down.

So do you think there is hope for the Pharisee in the parable? Of course there is. Just a few verses later, in Luke 18:26-27, one of the disciples asked Jesus if it was possible for anyone to be saved, and Jesus replied, “Things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

In fact, one of the most self-righteous, rule-crazy Pharisees of all was saved by God’s mercy and went on to become the Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the new testament and traveled the world sharing the good news of Jesus, who saves us from our sins. Here’s something that Paul said after God’s mercy allowed him to enter the kingdom of God: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst sinner of all.” — 1Timothy 1:15b

Like Paul, we can say that Jesus came into the world to save us. We are all sinners. There is nothing we can do to make up for that. All we can do is be like the tax collector in the temple and recognize our own need for mercy; because without mercy, we cannot enter God’s kingdom. And like the tax collector, we should understand that everyone sins and needs forgiveness. We are not better than others, even if we keep rules or do lots of good works. God promises that if we recognize our need for His forgiveness, we will be lifted up. And that is the best place to be.

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