“Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them” (Luke 5:29).
This is evangelism at its best.
Levi the tax collector follows Jesus.
He holds a banquet for Jesus at his home.
He invites his tax-collector friends to come.
Evidently it was a grand occasion.
Naturally the super-religious types hated it. Why would Jesus associate with riff-raff like that? Didn’t he know that tax collectors were notorious cheats who were in cahoots with Rome? A young man on the rise (which Jesus certainly was) ought to know better than hang around with that crowd.
But Jesus felt at home with tax collectors and prostitutes (see Matthew 9:11). They got along just fine with Jesus because he knew what they were like and loved them anyway. He enjoyed their company, laughed with them, listened to them, and made himself available to them.
As for the religious types, they viewed Jesus as a nuisance at best and as a threat at worst. Eventually they would conspire to put him to death. In the meantime they treated him with low-grade hostility. That’s why they peppered his disciples with questions and took every chance they had to trip him up.
It’s not that Jesus didn’t love the Pharisees or wouldn’t spend time with them. It’s that they didn’t want to spend time with him. So he spent time with those who welcomed him. Jesus explained all this in terms that the Pharisees probably missed altogether:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32).
If a man thinks he is healthy, he won’t go to the doctor even though he has a tumor growing on the inside. As long as he denies his problem, he won’t seek help even if it kills him. Jesus came to help those who know they need help.
The first step in getting well is to admit you have a problem. That’s why Jesus hung around with the wrong crowd. He always gets along well with people who know they need him.
Gracious Lord, purge from my heart a judgmental spirit. May I not be ashamed of you or of the people you came to save. Amen.
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