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Reference: Luke 5 v 27-39
Jesus in in the middle of a busy and exciting time of ministry in his home region of Galilee. As he goes along he comes across a tax collector named Levi.
Our key thought for today is the words of Jesus:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”.
Imagine visiting your doctor when you are in the full bloom of health! Here Luke draws a contrast for us between people who think that they are healthy spiritually (or who think that they can make themselves acceptable to God) and those who know that they are sick and lost, unless Jesus saves them.
Which one are you?
1. A Personal Call
In the midst of all the business of ministry to the masses Luke makes it clear that Jesus also speaks to people one at a time. We have seen a desperate leper, a group of friends desperate for Jesus to help their friend, the paralytic, and now we see Jesus calling a man who was the most despised amongst men – a tax collector.
Levi, in many ways, had everything going for him. He would have been a highly intelligent, educated man, astute in business and a true Jew. The trouble is that he had collaberated with the Romans and used his gifts to extort money from his fellow-countrymen on behalf of a regime dedicated to subjugating them. His methods did not have to be ethical – as long as he gave the Romans what they asked for he could keep whatever else he made. This meant that tax collectors were usually very rich and totally despised – especially by the religious establishment. The word from the Pharisees would be “have nothing to do with them”. And who does Jesus call? Levi – a tax collector. There is no one who is beyond the reach of the call of God! It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick!
2. A Promising Commencement
It is certainly true that Jesus calls the worst of sinners. But He is not expecting them to stay the same as they are. Jess goes on to say that he has not called the righteous but sinners to repentance.
How does Levi respond to the call? And how should we respond?
We read that Levi got up, left everything and followed Jesus.
“got up” – to follow Jesus is an active choice.
“left everything” – all the earthly trappings of success had to go”
“And followed..” – the call to follow Jesus is a call to follow a person.
We then read that Levi invites all his friends to meet Jesus. What a great start to his life of following Jesus!
How should our Christian life start. In David Pawson’s book “the Normal Christian Birth” he highlights four things that must accompany the call to follow Jesus:
Repentance – have I turned from my old life?
Faith – am I trusting in Jesus, rather than my efforts to save me?
Baptism in water – have I obeyed God by being baptised?
Baptism in the Spirit – have I received the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower me to follow Jesus?
We need to make sure that our lives of following Jesus have started correctly.
3. A Public Celebration
There is a belief that our religion is a personal private matter. Not at all! As soon as Levi understands the reality of Jesus in is life, he has to tell people. And who else is he going to tell, but his friends? So we have the picture here of Jesus in a “sinner’s” house surrounded by the dregs of society. There is nothing that Jesus loves more – he came to call sinners, not the righteous. Who are you introducing Jesus to?
4. A Predictable Confrontation
Complaint One: Guess who is unhappy about Jesus mixing with the wrong types of people!
Answer: creative irony! If you think you are healthy – I can’t help you! If you are righteous you don’t need me! I am here for the sick and the sinners!
Complaint two: You are eating and drinking – not fasting.
Answer: we are in a new era – an era where God comes to the sinner – not one where we have to make ourselves righteous to come to God.
Jesus uses two short parables to make his point – the parables about the cloth and the wine. They are both saying the same thing: this is a day for new things – not for the old religion of works. You can’t patch up old things, they have to be made new. It’s no good trying to patch up your life – you need a new start with new cloths and a new wine. And it’s available to sinners – not the righteous. It’s available to the sick – not the healthy!
5. A Painful Comparison
There is a painful comparison between two types of character here. The sinner who eagerly recognises his need of a Saviour, who realises that his life is a mess without God on the one hand. And on the other – the self-righteous person who thinks that his deeds are enough to get him to God. Which are you?
Levi was an outcast and a sinner. He had to friends , no popularity and his life was a disgrace in the eyes of God and man. Yes Jesus saved him. And Jesus can save you.
But not only did Jesus save him, Levi – also known as Matthew – was soon to become one of the inner circle of Jesus disciples , and wrote one of the four gospels. Who knows what God can do with the rejects of life, if they turn to God?