The conviction of the group that Jesus comes in contact with when at Matthew’s is that “one who claims to be holy should not have dinner with tax collectors and sinners.” In those ancient times, tax collectors were perceived a bad lot that was made up of sinners. To the Pharisees who thought of themselves as the holy lot, associating or even talking to tax collectors was an abomination. They identified themselves as the only holy people and the most clean spiritually and thus could not associate with sinners. Their group was made of the Pharisees and anybody who did contrary to their beliefs was considered unholy (Carter, 2013).
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Some of the people whom they did not associate with were the sick, prostitutes and the tax collectors. The sick were considered unholy because the Pharisees believed that sickness was caused by sins, prostitution was a condemnation because it was a sin and the tax collectors were considered sinners because of their couth ways of collecting taxes. Jesus came to make the wrongs right, He thus does complete opposite of what the Pharisees believed in. This brings a lot of misunderstandings between Jesus and the Pharisees because they care most about maintaining their religious holiness than reaching out to those in need of being whole again, that is, without sins or diseases as a result of their preaching and works of mercy to those in need (Holy Bible, 2007).
In the text, at its most basic, the conflict between Jesus and the leaders is about doing against the set religious rules. The rule that Jesus breaks in this context is that a holy person should not eat from the same table with sinners. In this case, Jesus was eating together with Matthew in his place and Matthew is a tax collector. This is so because tax collectors were not only disreputable sinners but also were considered as spies of the Romans against their associated Jews. Nobody loved any man who worked at the levy office. Thus, they lived a secluded life like outcasts in their own community.
Matthew sought to bring his old acquaintances to hear the Christ. After his calling, he now understands how powerful the grace of Christ was and would like his fellow tax collectors to experience the same. This portrays that the ones who have an experience with the Christ develops a desire that others be brought to him to have the same experience. As Jesus points out, those who think that their souls are not ailing do not long for a spiritual physician (Holy Bible, 2007).
This was a direct hit to the Jews since they could not understand that Jesus, as John the Baptist said, was coming to heal the sick, to cleanse the sinners and to give hope to those who were in despair. Jesus demonstrated that he came for all by incorporating all in His teachings and day to day encounters but the Jewish despised Him because they held a view that they are whole. The that the poor publicans and sinners felt that they were in need of amendment and instruction but could not get it from the Pharisees and that is why Jesus kept them close to make them whole against. This was a regular cause of misunderstanding between him and the Jews (Holy Bible, 2007).
There are several things we need to know about the historical world to understand the conflict between Jesus and the leaders at the Matthew’s. First, the Jewish people out rightly regarded tax collectors as conspirators because they worked for the Roman regime, and had the power of Roman militaries behind them so as to brutally compel people to pay levies. They were most eminent traitors with Roman regime (Carter, 2013).
Secondly, Jewish regarded tax collectors to be extortionists because they kept everything they collected. Since tax collectors bid for a contractor to collect taxes in particular areas, the Romans gave the contracts to the person with the highest bid. The bidder would collect levies, give the Roman Empire what he had promised and would keep the rest. Therefore, there were many instances where the tax collectors levied high taxes and cheating with any opportunity they found so as to amass as much money as they could. For them, this was a business with wholesome profit making as they deemed necessary (Holy Bible, 2007).
Thirdly, when a Jew got into the duties’ service, he was considered a cast away from the society. He was banned as a judge or an eye witness in a law court hearing, was barred from the synagogue and in the face of the public, his discredit prolonged to his kinfolks. This shows how bad the Jews hated the tax-leviers to an extent of considering them sinners, an abomination in the society and this hatred protracted to their family. Their grounds on which this kind of hate was based were genuine no wonder they were so bitter on Jesus when he associated with sinners and even went to an extent of dinning with them (Kraybill, 2003). The bone of contention here is the cause of misunderstanding between Jesus and the Jewish. What the Jewish do not seem to understand is that Jesus had come to make right that which is wrong.
The knowing of the above past practices informs me in several ways in the process of reading the Matthew gospel. First, I now understand that the Jews were real fanatics of their religious dogmas. They highly valued conformation to their religious practices with an aim of staying clean and straight. Secondly, I now understand that every misunderstanding between Jesus and the Jews had a cause and it had something to do with a contradiction of the Jewish existing religious doctrines. Lastly, the misunderstandings were always eminent between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders because the Jews were not ready to accept the purpose for the coming of Christ. If only they understood, they would have compromised to accommodate His teachings (Carter, 2013).
Carter, W. (2013).Seven events that shaped the New Testament world.
Holy Bible: NRSV, New Revised Standard Version. (2007). New York: Harper Bibles.
Kraybill, D. (2003). The upside-down kingdom.Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press.