After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
A few years ago a liberal denomination aired a series of television commercials that communicated their ‘open and affirming’ stance as a church. The commercial was effective by depicting other churches as being closed and exclusive. People of various lifestyles and circumstances were turned away from the front door of the church building. I was asked about this by a reporter from the local paper. My comment was that it is very true that Jesus receives us and accepts us just the way we are. We do not have to change our behavior to receive the love of Christ today. Where I was concerned and where the Tolerance Movement fails is in communicating that we will never need to change. The old adage is true, “Jesus loves us just the way we are and too much to let us stay that way!” When we come to Christ there is every expectation that our life will change, improving for the better. God’s agenda for every one of us is to recreate us into the image of His Son, Jesus. We all will experience change!
I wish I had been astute enough to reference today’s passage. Luke describes Jesus teaching to the masses, using the resources of some rough-living, tough-talking fishermen to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven. He then asks these hard-working men to go out into the deep for a catch of fish. Peter was gracious, explaining that they had fished all night (the right time to fish, not in the daylight!), but “because Jesus said so, he would.” These are words to live by, but that’s for another post! The awesome catch of fish makes Peter ask that Jesus leave him because he was a sinful man. Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
With the calling of Levi and the party that Levi throws for Jesus as his house, we see Jesus’ method for ‘catching men.’ He is accused by the religious elite of being a ‘friend of sinners’ – guilty! Jesus more than speaks to these sinful people, He engages them, loves them, EATS with them! This was the utmost expression of fellowship and friendship in the first century, which is why the Pharisees posed the question, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Similar to the adulterous woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-48) and the Pharisee wondered how, if Jesus were a Prophet from God, He wouldn’t know about her and allow her to do such an intimate thing – for the religious, holiness meant separation from sinful people. Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
The evangelism method of Jesus is to
1.Go to the spiritually sick and be with them
2.To love and express kindness to them
3.To call them to repentance
Jesus’ message and agenda was repentance for the sinner, but He went to them to deliver it. He did not expect them to change first. He loved them where they were. While the liberal denomination espousing the ‘tolerance movement’ may forget the call to repentance, the rest of us forget to Go to the ‘tax collectors and sinners!’ We want them to show up at our door. If we’re going to follow Jesus and ‘fish for men’ – we must go to their door! While we may be in the boat, we have to push off from shore and go to where the fish are.
It’s important for us to see HOW Jesus did this Kingdom mission work. He was relationally involved in those He was trying to reach. Let’s follow Jesus in this. Let’s not have any more ‘church softball leagues.’ Let’s go to the community rec center and join the bar league. Let’s not huddle in our churches multiple times each week… let’s go walk the Mall and meet our neighbors. Jesus said that we are the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world.’ Let’s live up to this high calling and love people to faith in Jesus.
Lord, thank you for loving me and calling me to repentance. You are awesome!