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The Gospel in Unexpected Places

Today's Devotional

Read: Mark 2:13-17 | Bible in a Year: Job 14–16; Acts 9:22–43

Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him. Mark 2:15

Recently, I found myself someplace I’d seen in movies and on TV more times than I could count: Hollywood, California. There, in the foothills of Los Angeles, those enormous white letters marched proudly across that famous hillside as I viewed them from my hotel window.

Then I noticed something else: down to the left was a prominent cross. I’d never seen that in a movie. And the moment I left my hotel room, some students from a local church began to share Jesus with me.

We might sometimes think of Hollywood as only the epicenter of worldliness, in utter contrast with God’s kingdom. Yet clearly Christ was at work there, catching me by surprise with His presence.

The Pharisees were consistently surprised by where Jesus turned up. He didn’t hang out with the people they expected. Instead, Mark 2:13–17 tells us He spent time with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 15), people whose lives practically screamed, “Unclean!” Yet there Jesus was, among those who needed Him most (vv. 16–17).

More than two thousand years later, Jesus continues to plant His message of hope and salvation in unexpected places, among the most unexpected of people. And He’s called and equipped us to be a part of that mission.   

When have you noticed God at work in a place that surprised you? What adjustments might you make to be open to the Spirit leading you into unexpected places?

Heavenly Father, thank You for showing up even in places where I’m tempted to believe You’re absent. Thank You for calling me to be a part of Your mission. 


The Pharisees accused Jesus of associating with two groups of “undesirable” people—tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:16). Tax collectors were despised and hated by the Jews because they were regarded as greedy mercenaries and traitors working for the Roman conquerors. They also collected more money than the mandated Roman tax, pocketing the excess and enriching themselves at the expense of their own people (Luke 3:12–13). “Sinners,” in Jewish parlance, were the notoriously wicked; reprobates who rejected God’s law. The Pharisees also used “sinners” to denote anyone who didn’t meticulously maintain ceremonial purity or follow their rigid pharisaic standards. Tax collectors were deliberately lumped together with sinners to show how degenerate and wicked the tax-collectors were. Jesus was invited to dine with all sorts of people, even with the Pharisees (7:36; 11:37). He ate so often with social and religious outcasts—the scum of society—that He earned the reputation as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (7:34).

By |2023-06-29T02:33:25-04:00June 29th, 2023|
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