Luke 15:1

ESV Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
NIV Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
NASB Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Jesus to listen to Him.
CSB All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him.
NLT Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
KJV Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
NKJV Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

What does Luke 15:1 mean?

Jesus has just given some hard qualifications for being His disciple. We must love Him so much that the love for our family looks like hate. We must be willing to give up our lives and all we have (Luke 14:25–33). Unlike the Pharisees and their lawyers, who place unrealistic expectations on people and reject them when they fail (Luke 11:46), God is always willing to help His people come to Him.

At some point, Jesus is swarmed by "sinners" and "tax collectors." These two terms are used to imply a wide range of social and moral outcasts; these are people shunned and despised by the self-righteous religious elites of Jerusalem (Matthew 9:10–13; Mark 2:15–17). In this context, a "sinner" was anyone who had rebelled against God to the point that they seemed to no longer be in relationship with Him. Tax collectors were hated not only for cooperating with Roman oppressors, but also because they were frequently corrupt. The King James Version uses "publican" instead of tax collector; "publican" is from the Latin for someone who collects public funds.

Jesus doesn't just meet with these people or condemn them for their sin; He eats with them. He shows them the fellowship of a friend, and He did so from the beginning of His ministry (Luke 5:27–32). The Pharisees are incredulous that someone who calls Himself a teacher of God would associate with sinners (Luke 15:2).

Jesus responds with parables representing three ways sinners may leave God's followship. In the parable of the lost sheep, the sinner foolishly walks away. In the parable of the lost coin, the sinner doesn't even know he has strayed. In the parable of the prodigal son, the sinner intentionally, rebelliously rejects God. In the case of the first two, God seeks out and rescues the lost; in the third, He waits patiently for the lost to turn toward home and eagerly meets him on the way. In all three, when the lost has returned, the Lord celebrates.

God seeks out the lost. Jesus invites sinners to fellowship with Him. As He will later tell the repentant tax collector Zacchaeus, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
What is the Gospel?
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