Batty Bob and the tax collector

Published 10:09 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Throughout the four Gospels, we see Jesus reaching out to people nobody else was reaching out to. In fact, Jesus reached out to people that everybody else despised.

That was certainly the case with Zacchaeus of Jericho. Luke 19:2 describes him as a “chief tax collector.” The tax collectors of Israel were viewed as traitors, because they worked for the Romans, and the way they made their money was by charging people far more than what Rome required.

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The Beatles song “Taxman” describes the way guys like Zacchaeus operated:


Let me tell you how it will be

There’s one for you, nineteen for me


Should five percent appear too small,

Be thankful I don’t take it all


In the case of Zacchaeus, he was a “chief” tax collector. In other words, he was the head honcho over all the whole loathsome lot.

But one day as Jesus was passing through Jericho, he saw Zacchaeus, called him by name, and told him he wanted to spend some time with him.

Jesus could not have picked a more unpopular guy to hang out with, and the good people of Jericho were none too thrilled by it. They grumbled that Jesus had chosen to befriend this notorious sinner.

Here is a question we need to ponder: Are we more like Jesus or more like the grumblers of Jericho?

Chris Seay grew up in Houston. His dad was a pastor, and their Christian family used to go to a lot of Houston Astros baseball games.

They would sit in the cheap seats, and many of the people sitting around them chose to sit in that section so they could spend more money on beer. The baseball game was just another reason to get drunk, and once they got a few in them they would fight and start spilling beer on others.

One of the lead drunks of the cheap seats was a self-styled Astros mascot named Batty Bob. This was in the days when the Astros wore garish, rainbow colored uniforms, so Batty Bob wore a rainbow wig. Once he was sufficiently inebriated, he would get up and lead in slurred cheers.

One night, Chris watched as his dad went over and sat down beside Batty Bob and started up a friendly conversation with him. He thought, “Dad, what are you doing? That’s one of the bad people.”

His dad spent most of the game sitting with Batty Bob. But Chris was even more shocked at the end of game, when Bob walked with the Seay family to their car, got in, and went home with them!

Later that night, after his parents had gotten Batty Bob cleaned up and in bed, Pastor Seay came in and talked with the kids. He explained to them that God loved Batty Bob, and he was going to stay with them for a couple of days.

Chris says, “That is the moment when I began to realize that God didn’t despise these people the way I had. In fact, he dearly loved them.”

Why should we love sinners? Because Jesus loved us while we were still sinners. So much so that he died for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.