It is not the healthy who need a doctor.
With Jesus’ ministry in full swing now, he has shown that he can heal, catch fish, call people to follow him, understand the secret things of a person’s heart and forgive sins! He was in the presence of the great Pharisees and teachers of the law and rebuked their doubting hearts. He has recruited some fishermen to follow him and promised that they will be taught to catch people for the kingdom of God.
- 27-28 Levi leaves it all
- 29-32 Dr Luke describes the Great Physician
27-28 Levi leaves it all
“…a tax collector by the name of Levi…” Matthew 9:9-13 gives us a parallel account of this story and Levi is named Matthew. Why the two names is a mystery which many debate. There are many examples of people having multiple names. Some have suggested they are two different people. While this is possible, it’s more likely that Levi was renamed to Matthew at some point.
“…sitting at his tax booth.” He was at work. As the story goes on to suggest, tax collectors were not liked AND put into the class of sinner. They not only had the habit of taking more money than needed (through the established ethic of the job) but they worked to collect money for Rome – the Gentile rulers.
“Follow me.” Jesus singled out this man to be a disciple. The word “saw” in verse 27 carries with it the idea of taking notice of this man as opposed to just stumbling upon him. Jesus somehow knew Levi and it seems Levi knew who Jesus was by his response.
“…left everything…” We saw this type of calling earlier in the chapter. This section of Luke’s story from 4:31 to 6:16 carries a theme of gathering disciples and rousing opposition. Levi, like Peter, abandons his job to follow Jesus. Whatever he saw as important before, he no longer regards so when Jesus calls him.
29-32 Dr Luke describes the Great Physician
“Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house…” Tax collecting was a fruitful industry. When Levi’s life is changed, he responds with celebration and spending! Storing the money for the future was not his concern.
“…large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.” Coming to Jesus was not a private and embarrassing thing but worth inviting his friends to share in. Jesus has asked an outcast in the Jewish system to be a disciple and he has told his colleagues all about it. Either Jesus has made a big mistake or he is happy to spend his time with such lost children of Israel.
“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” These guys are now becoming regular critics of Jesus. Like little OCD people shocked that things are not being done as they should, the Pharisees and teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained as though this is just not right! How can a man of God mingle like this. It is just not done!
“…tax collectors and sinners.” Now we have the category of ‘sinners’ introduced. The mindset of the Pharisees is that God only accepts righteous folk. That is, people who listen to the word of God, and seek to obey it in every part of life. Anyone who is not practicing a disciplined life in this manner is surely a sinner! Matthew 9:13 adds something to the story with Jesus’ challenge to reflect on this saying, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” The Pharisees and teachers of the law were all about the outward duty, the sacrificial system being followed to the letter, and categorising the righteous and the sinners on this basis. But Jesus reminds them that following God is all about a changed heart, compassion for God and dependance on his mercy.
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus is not declaring that there are people on earth who are naturally or religiously righteous but that he asks everyone to see their sin and come to him for forgiveness. He has come to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Jesus does not intend to show favouritism to the upright in society and religion but to call all who in humility and bankrupt in spirit to come to him for peace.
Jesus calls us all to see our bankrupt hearts and come and follow him – not because of our righteousness but because he is righteous. Not because we are healthy but because we want to be. “We are all in this position. We need the Great Physician!” (Colin Buchanan).
- Topic A: Salvation is worth celebrating! Why is it that so many Christians are downcast? Have we fallen into the trap of the Pharisee? We may believe that Jesus loves sinners but somehow we are living out our deep belief that Jesus loves the successful and well rounded person who has things in order. Why can’t we stop chasing the wind and just come back to grace? Praise God if you are called, forgiven and healed – irrespective of what your life looks like.
- Topic B: Gathering a crowd to be with Jesus. Who knows how Levi talked about Jesus to his colleagues and friends. But he talked to them about him and they came to meet him too. Talking to others about our faith is not the same as telling them why you go to church or what you believe but it is most importantly about who we love! Do you talk about Jesus like he is someone worth meeting?
- Topic C: Seeing the world through the lense of sin. Rather than promoting two types of people in this world (righteous vs sinners), Jesus pushed the Pharisees to see everybody as sinners. Jesus came to heal but he didn’t have only a certain class in mind when he came. He came to save sinners! And there’s a whole world of them! We live in a world infected by sin as if it is a disease and we need the antidote! Now, if you are someone who knows how to be saved from hell, it’s like you are in a world dying from a breakout disease and you have the only thing that can cure people! Would you keep that a secret? Would you gather around with other saved victims and bunker down while the rest of the world dies? Or do you think we should be telling everyone to get the Jesus solution?
Prayer of the Week
Our Lord and our God, please help us to rejoice with you and our church continually because you have healed us from sin. When we are tempted to rejoice in our own successes, please remind us of Jesus and our need for him each day. We praise you for calling us and for saving us and for being in fellowship with us. May we never tire of sharing this good news with others and we pray that through us you will grow your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.