Cries of Repentance
Verse 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
Today we take a look at the second person of Jesus’ parable that had come to the Temple to pray. Yesterday we discussed the Pharisee, today we look at the tax collector.
Tax collectors were far from anyone’s favorite people. In fact their friends were often other tax collectors. Jesus’ choice of characters for His story could not have come from further extremes. The religious leaders, who were often looked up to as the model for life and the tax collector, who would be more of an example of what not to become.
Jesus was very specific in His choice of characters because He wanted His listeners, and us, to see the difference between a self-righteous person and a person who knows they are sinful. He wanted us to see that we have a choice in how we come to Him in prayer. But only one is acceptable to His ears. And that should be the one that we want to pay attention to in learning how to pray.
The tax collector came to the Temple not to be seen by people but to draw near to God. He wasn’t a regular to the Temple as the Pharisee would have been. He was coming because God was drawing him. He came not out of pride but out of pure humility. Humility is the way we should be coming to talk with God.
The tax collector didn’t make lists, he didn’t look around to see who was watching. No, he knew that God was the audience that he wanted and he only had a few words to express what was in his heart. He begged for mercy. He knew what sins lived in his heart. He knew the deeds of his life that deserved God’s wrath. He knew he had no right to come to the Holy One but he came anyway. His body language said it all, he stood back and wouldn’t lift his face to heaven. He beat his chest as he grieved his sin. He came with a knowledge of who he truly was in the sight of God and he confessed it, “I am a sinner.” This is the starting place for any prayerful heart. This is the heart that God accepts with open arms.
Making It Personal
When was the last time you acknowledged to yourself that you are a sinner? When was the last time you brought it up in prayer as a confession to God? How does knowing that we are sinners aid us in how we come to God in prayer?
Making It Personal Kids
What does it mean to be a sinner? Are you a sinner? Have you ever asked God’s forgiveness for being a sinner?
Father, please forgive us. We are sinners and don’t deserve Your grace. Thank You for wanting us to come to You and for Your willingness to forgive us. In Jesus’ name, amen.