After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.Luke 4:27-32
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
While we were traveling home this weekend, Patrina and I pulled our camper into the parking lot of a church in northwest Tennessee and listened to a sermon that prompted me to take some time to consider the phrase – Jesus, friend of sinners.
There’s a lot of talk in some circles about how Jesus would respond to people in our world today. Some use the exact phrase to justify sin. Yes, Jesus was (and is) a friend to sinners, but in every account, you’ll notice that is was the “sinner”, not Jesus whose life was changed.
Early in Luke’s gospel, we are introduced to Levi, a tax collector better known to us as the disciple, Matthew. Notice, Levi’s response when Jesus said, “Follow me.” Luke doesn’t indicate any hesitation at all. He left the tax booth and began planning a great feast.
The religious folks then used eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners as an opportunity to criticize Jesus. In His response, Jesus doesn’t excuse the religious from their need for repentance. Every one of us is a sinner in need of repentance. As Paul quotes the Pslams –
None is righteous, no, not one;Romans 9:10-12
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”