It’s About The People
“Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Tax collectors and sinners…tax collectors and sinners?!? Really?? THOSE kind of people??? Tax collectors and sinners!!!??
Sorry, I can’t help but notice how much emphasis there is in these three small verses on these people. But why? When Peter and Andrew had invited Jesus into their home, He came in and ate – and healed the physically ill (Peter’s mother-in-law). And Levi invited Jesus into his home also. There, Jesus was also healing – He sees the spiritual illness and is healing them with His mercy and love (Matthew 9:13 “But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”)
So what kind of people are these that Jesus wants to heal? Tax collectors. Sinners. Lightfoot in his “Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica” says this: “…And sinners. Who were they? Dicers, usurers, plunderers, publicans, shepherds of lesser cattle, those that sell the fruit of the seventh year, etc.” These were the dirty, low-life of Israel. The outcasts. Considered Jewish turncoats. And most people have an idea how hated tax collectors were in those days in Israel, but if you need some further reading on that, click HERE. It’s hard to figure out what would be a good example of people like this for American culture. One possible type that comes to my mind are maybe the people who ‘play the system’ and misuse government help. They tend to be considered by the general populace as ‘low life’s’. Or maybe you think of illegal immigrants in this kind of light. Or to you it’s the family that can’t keep their house clean, kids are stinky and have unwashed faces, and their car blows pollution into the air every time they pull out of the driveway. Are you getting uncomfortable yet? Have I touched on your categorizing of people – people who are in need of the Physician?
In Jesus’ time, there were plenty of ‘those kind of people’ and He didn’t shy away from them. They followed Him. This makes me think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;” And how are WE supposed to treat these people that God calls? James 2:2-4 tells us exactly how:
“for it there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
This example Jesus gives, and these words here in James, are a stern reminder to those who say they walk with Jesus. Don’t turn your nose up at anyone Jesus is calling. So the person Jesus wants you to talk to has a dark past. He didn’t come for the righteous but sinners. So you find you want to judge them for their dirty house, unkempt kids, view of government, choice of profession, whatever it may be that somehow makes you think that person is beneath you. God, forgive me for all the times I’ve behaved just like the pharisees!! How dare I not reach out! God reached His hand to me, a sinner. So I cannot say like those religious men did ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with…?’ Instead, I will pull up a chair. I’ll do what Jesus did.
Like Keith Green said so well, “Do you see, do you see, all the people sinking down? Don’t you care, don’t you care? are you gonna let them drown?”
Jesus is all about the people. The needy people.