Luke 5 v 31. “Jesus answered them: ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”
At the beginning of the chapter Peter is called by Jesus from his fishing boat. Now Levi is called from his tax collectors’ tables. Jesus’ recruits do not really match up to smart company.
For at least three reasons Levi is an unlikely choice as a disciple. First, he worked for the despised Roman imperialists, second, he belonged to a class of people reckoned to be extortionists and fraudulent and, third, as tax collectors they were in contact with Gentiles which made them ceremonially unclean. Thus they were regarded socially as belonging to the lowest class, akin with prostitutes and other social outcasts.
When Levi met Jesus, how did he respond? He exercised a love and concern for all his former fellow sinners and threw a large dinner party at which all his former colleagues could meet Jesus and hear him preach.
Here is something we can learn. Of course evangelistic dinners are not new to us but it is refreshing to see the spontaneity with which Levi did this.
But not all were impressed; the Pharisees and the teachers of the law criticised Jesus for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners (4 v 30) Jesus’ answer quoted above is priceless. If doctors never visited the sick for fear of contamination how would they ever be healed?
By the same token if preachers only preached to the converted, how would sinners ever hear the good news?
But behind Jesus’ answer was a deeper barb. Did the Pharisees and teachers of the law not see themselves as sinners? Probably not, but they were in the same need of a Saviour as the people they despised. But the tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners knew they were sinners. They knew they needed a Saviour. They knew they were in need of forgiveness. But who would be the Saviour and forgive them? The answer is of course, Jesus Christ.
Those who never see themselves in need of God’s forgiveness, live on in pride and pay a bitter price in the end.