I love to people watch. People are fascinating: their dress, their walk, their actions and reactions, their interactions. I think it would have been amazing to watch Jesus and His interactions with people.
In this chapter from verses 9-17 Jesus interacts with two groups of people on opposite ends of a spectrum. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else” (vs 9) were the first group. He told them a parable giving the first two pictures: a Pharisee and a tax collector going to pray.
“The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself.” (vs 11) He wasn’t talk to God; he was bragging for the sake of those around him. He was not humble before his Creator, but proud and boastful before men. “Thank you that I’m not like other men.” (vs 11)
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (vs 13) This man acknowledged the truth of his sin; he knew he had nothing to offer a holy God, but threw himself on the “mercy of the court”. In humility he came to beg from God what he knew he did not deserve. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” (vs 14)
The second group is a group of children and parents. And the third picture is one of Jesus with children. Parents brought their children to Jesus for Him to bless them, but the disciples tried to send them away. “But Jesus called the children to Himself.” (vs 16) Jesus loved (and loves) children. “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child, will never enter it.” (vs 16-17) We need to receive Christ with all the awe, wonder, excitement, joy and gratitude of a child entering Disneyland for the first time, gripping tightly to the hand of our Heavenly Father and knowing that nothing else could ever compare.
So three pictures: the Pharisee who could not admit that “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), the tax collector begging for mercy he knew he did not deserve, and the children giving a picture of the awe and wonder with which we must approach the kingdom. Two of these will see the face of God. The other had become his own god. Which are you?