Ah, the smell of money. Even in the hot afternoon sun it was my favorite smell. The gold coins clinked together in my sweaty hands. This was music to my ears. I lifted my pen to tabulate my figures. My lines always had to be even, my columns always straight.
That's when I felt someone looking at me. He saw me from a distance and then walked over to where I was sitting. I had seen him before in the market place and heard the crowds talking. Was this man truly the prophesied Messiah?
All these things mulled in my head as I watched him approach me. My heart beat in my chest. Could he really be looking at me? Could he really be walking toward my booth? Could he be approaching me, the tax collector, hated and despised for the living I made?
The people all stared. I was accustomed to the scowls, complaints, even curses. No one was ever pleasant to tax collectors. But he wasn’t angry. He simply put his money down and looked into my eyes. Then he said two words that changed my life forever. He said, follow me”. All at once, everything I had ever desired seemed unimportant. What mattered now was that I obey him. I got up from the table, leaving everything behind.
Later, as Jesus and the rest of us disciples reclined at my dinner table with my old tax collector friends Jesus was the perfect conversationalist. He didn’t need strong drink to loosen his tongue, nor did he get drunk, but he did not look down on my friends who did. This was their way. They knew no different, the drink took away the sting of public disdain.
We were people too, with hearts that beat blood every bit as red as everyone else’s. We drew together out of necessity. This was the fellowship of those who made their living by making others miserable. We were traitors to our fellow Jewish brothers and thieves. Yet somehow, Jesus’ very being helped me realize that even though I had become wealthy like this, I could give it all up, and I did.
As I watched Jesus reclining with these men, laughing in the cool of the evening, a spring wind rustled in through the windows. The smell filled my heart with joy, Jesus had changed me.
My heart no longer burned with greed but with passion to see everyone experience this new freedom. I no longer needed to dull my senses to cover the pain. I sat reflecting when one of my servants came in.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear, I felt the heat of his face, “They insisted on coming in… I could not detain them”.
Before I could prepare myself there was a great rustling of clothes. In rushed the religious leaders in their long flowing gowns, full of religious self importance. After they inspected my decor, feeling important in the luxury, it was on Jesus’ disciples they focused their scowls.
In loud voices they blurted out, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?
Jesus heard them. He replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:11-13).
The religious leaders left quickly. I turned to look at my guests.
I was leaving this fellowship for a better fellowship. Would they understand? Would any follow with me? I looked from face to face. There were tears in one of my friend’s eyes. Could he too feel Jesus’ holy call?
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