“Of Whom I Am the Foremost”
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15
In Mark 2:14, Jesus calls a man who taxes fishermen to join some of the fishermen who’ve been taxed in his band of merry disciples. Let’s not gloss over this historical-cultural reality. The tax collector Levi (Matthew) is thought to be a dog — a sinner, a thief, a traitor to the faith and the nation — and he is now joined together with those he has betrayed and stolen from. Eventually they’re all reclining together in Levi’s house at the table, and Jesus and his disciples are taking on the stigma of the “tax collectors and sinners.”
I think of Acts 9 when the repentant Paul tries to join the disciples of Christ and the disciples of Christ are thinking, “Um, what?” They’re reasonably afraid. Can you imagine perhaps being someone whose cousin was murdered by Paul and then later being under Paul’s apostolic authority?
Jesus goes around making enemies into friends, of himself and each other. He makes them family. How does this work?
We deduce from the gospel a few important points, things that are personal commitments to remember:
1. I am a sinner like they are sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
2. My salvation did not come from being better than them but from the finished work of Christ.
3. Because I know me better than I know them, it is true, acknowledged or not, that I am the worst sinner I know.