15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17
Of all the people that Jesus selected for his initial launch team, Levi might have raised the most eyebrows. You’re probably thinking, “But what about Judas? Surely his selection would have caused concern.”
That concern would come later; at the time, Judas seemed like a perfectly good choice.
But Levi was a legal extortionist (a tax collector) whose friends were fellow extortioners and a random collection of other “sinners.” As a Jewish employee of the Roman government, Levi didn’t draw a salary but was allowed to overcharge the taxpayers and keep the difference. It likely made him fairly wealthy. It certainly made him a despised man.
For the religious leaders, asking Levi to join the team was scandalous enough. But then to have dinner with Levi and his disreputable friends … that was outrageous!
This story highlights three groups of people I interact with on a regular basis.
Those who feel unworthy of God’s love.
You are not.
You look at other people and think, “I bet they don’t have half the struggles I do. They’ve probably not had a bad thought in five years! They deserve God’s love. Me? My life is a mess.”
If Jesus were here today, I have no doubt that he would accept an invitation to eat at your house.
Those who don’t believe they need God’s help.
Maybe life is pretty good right now. There are a few occasional speed bumps but no major potholes. If you were to give your life a grade, it might be a B plus or an A minus. When life is going well, it can seduce into thinking we’re doing just fine and don’t need God’s help.
Or, and this might be the case for you, life stinks right now. It’s hard, difficult, and disappointing. You’re hitting one dead end after another. Perhaps your marriage is falling apart or your kids are making poor choices. In these times, it can be tempting to believe we just need to work harder … read one more book … suck it up and tough it out.
But here’s the thing to remember: The only person Jesus cannot heal is the person who doesn’t believe they need to be healed.
Those who want to follow Jesus.
Warning: What follows is a word of caution, not encouragement.
Following Jesus means going to the same people and places that Jesus went and spent time with. It is physically impossible to follow a person who is going one way but walking in a different direction.
If you want to follow Jesus, people can no longer be categories or labels … you must see them as people. To follow Jesus means you believe people are more important than your prejudices.
Simply put, to follow Jesus will require going where non-Christians are and being their friend.
But don’t be surprised if the religious people of today react the same way they did in the first century — with scorn, contempt, and outright opposition.
But if they call you a “friend of sinners,” take it as a compliment. That’s what they called Jesus, too.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in management and leadership
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
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I’ve written a few books that might help! You’ll find books on preaching, leadership, Ephesians, as well as my first novel. Follow this link to learn more.