AN UNLIKELY DISCIPLE?
Lord, teach us to disregard social station in life.
Read LUKE 5:27–32
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
27 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.
29 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?”
31 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.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (31,32).
Jesus called Levi, a hated collaborator collecting taxes imposed on his people by the occupying Roman forces. Tax collectors were despised as unpatriotic, dishonest, and unclean. The lists of the 12 apostles are notoriously difficult to reconcile, but Levi is most likely Matthew, described in Matthew’s Gospel as “Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth” (Matt. 9:9). Another less likely possibility is that “Levi son of Alphaeus” (Mark 2:14) is the disciple “James son of Alphaeus” (Luke 6:15), although this would put two tax collectors in the twelve. Levi, however, may not have been one of the twelve at all. Luke tells us shortly that Jesus will gather all his disciples together—did they include a Levi and a Matthew?—and choose twelve from among them.
This story forces us to the stark reality that Jesus does not move through Galilean society “handpicking the most religious, most virtuous, or most popular to follow him” (R. Alan Culpepper). He calls the poor workers, the outcasts, the despised and, what is more, he socializes with them, shares their meals, and calls them friends. This scandal is an affront to the respectable religious establishment, here represented by the theologians and Pharisees. They are outraged that Jesus unashamedly models a discipleship based on accepting uncleanness by associating with sinners rather than maintaining purity by separating from them. Indeed, the Pharisees’ question is a good test of whether or not our style of discipleship is faithful to that of Jesus. We should be glad if the respectably religious clan asks why we associate with the “unwashed” and the “undesirables”—however they are named and regarded in today’s society. Such a question would tell us that the work of Christ continues in the world.
“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame… and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:21,23).
Lord, Your people marvel over Your indifference to the opinion of sinful humans and how You steadfastly act with heavenly purposes in mind.
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