Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?”
Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”
Like we saw yesterday, Jesus was taking “religion” out of the authorized sacred spaces and doing it in public. In the passage before us, we see that it’s even more intimate than that.
“Tax collectors” were usually Jews who were working for the Roman Empire. They were known for “fixing the scales” to make themselves a little profit on the side. These people weren’t only despised by the Religious Elite but most of the community as well! In our story, Jesus actually calls one of those people to be his follower, his disciple.
Furthermore, Jesus goes to have dinner at Levi’s house! And who does Levi invite over? Other “tax collectors!” The nerve of some people!
The religious elite play their hand once more by complaining about whom Jesus is hanging out with. There are a couple things about this. First, they must have, at one time at least, thought of Jesus as a holy man, a rabbi, perhaps even a prophet. That’s why they were shocked that he was hanging out with people that other religious people wouldn’t hang out with.
Second, you can see just what the Religious Elite thought of those people (especially from the NLT) - “tax collectors and sinners.” You can just hear the judgment in the voice. That tells a lot about the oppression the community was under.
Does this mirror our communities today? Do our places of religion look “down their noses” at the community they are supposed to be serving? Do they see themselves as “better than” those they serve?
I’ve seen it for a long time. Our Empirical Religious Systems only seem to “support” the outcast when it’s convenient; when it makes them look good.
But followers of Jesus are called to be better than that. Of course, we’re not perfect (not by a long shot!). But it goes back to our intentions, our heart. What we’re called to do is for the betterment of all people - not just the ones we like. The prisoners have been set free but some (a lot) of them are still in their cells. We have to go to where they are. We have to show them what true humanity looks like. We can’t do it on our own. We need to Spirit of G_d to empower us for this service. For that is our true place - service. We are to serve others, not ourselves. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.” Those of us who follow him are called to the same vocation. Sometimes, we forget that.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.