Today’s passage is Luke 5:27-39. There are so many lessons we can learn from today’s passage. Let’s go!
Luke 5:27-28 (NIV) 27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
On verses 27-28: Back in Jesus’ time, tax collectors were despised in Israel. That is because tax collectors had a reputation for being crooked and money hungry, known for charging Jews more taxes than they actually owed to the Roman government and pocketing the difference. Jewish tax collectors were seen as traitors, since they were working for the Roman emperor while profiting at the expense of their fellow Jews. Levi was one such Jewish tax collector. Notice, however, that Levi’s occupation, background and reputation did not keep Jesus from inviting Levi to follow him. It also did not keep Levi from leaving everything to follow Jesus. Levi (also called Matthew) would become one of Jesus’ first disciples and apostles, and would go on to author the gospel of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament.
What can we learn from this?
God loves people regardless of their background or reputation. Irrespective of your past, Jesus wants a relationship with you. Jesus is greater than a person’s background, reputation or past. Jesus came for everyone, died for the sins of everyone to rescue everyone because He loves everyone!
Don’t discount a person’s need for Jesus or their usability in God’s kingdom just because of their background. We all need Jesus, and we all can be used by Him.
Luke 5:29-32 (NIV) 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
On verses 29-32: After deciding to follow Jesus, Levi holds a big party (“a great banquet”) at his house for Jesus. (Indeed when we decide to follow Jesus, it’s something worth celebrating.) Notice who attends the party: “a large crowd of tax collectors and others” (v29). In other words, Levi’s workmates, relatives and friends are hanging out and having a party with Jesus. My guess is that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were not invited to Levi’s party. They just saw the party from a distance and complained to Jesus’ disciples that Jesus went for dinner “with tax collectors and ‘sinners’” (v30). (Notice that in this case they complain to Jesus’ disciples, but not to Jesus himself.)
Jesus replies, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (v31-32) To paraphrase Jesus, “just as a doctor comes to help the sick and not the healthy, I’m here to help those who know they’re messed up and need help, not those who think they have it all put together.”
You and I must choose: will we be religious Pharisees, hanging out only with religious people and criticizing those who seem far from God? Or will we follow Jesus and go where unchurched people are and love them? We need to do the latter.
Often the ones who are best at bringing their friends to Jesus are new Christians like Matthew, passionate about their newfound faith in Jesus, active in inviting their unchurched friends to meet Jesus. I pray that you would be a “new Christian” every day of your life – that is, be passionate and hungry in your relationship with Jesus and be intentional about building and maintaining friendships with people who don’t know Him. When you do this you will never run out of friends to lead to Jesus.
Have you ever thought (or heard someone say), “I refuse to believe in Christianity or go to church because the Christians I know are such hypocrites”? Remember this: what binds Christians together is not that we all think we’re so good and perfect. Much the opposite, what binds Christians together is the belief that we are all messed up sinners who need a Saviour and that Saviour’s name is Jesus. While our goal as Christians should be to grow more like Christ in our character, to get healthy, mature and strong like Jesus, don’t be so surprised when you meet an imperfect Christian, just like you shouldn’t be surprised to meet a sick person when you’re at a hospital. God is patient with the Christians around you, just as He is patient with you.
Luke 5:33-35 (NIV) 33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
On verses 33-35: Trying to find some way to discredit Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and teachers of the law point to how John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but Jesus’ disciples do not (v33). Jesus responds by suggesting that fasting is for those who are waiting for the kingdom of God to come, whereas now that Jesus has arrived on the earth, the kingdom of God has also arrived and thus there was no need for his disciples to fast. Jesus compares his arrival to the arrival of a bridegroom and how when the bridegroom is with his buddies they are there to celebrate, not to be solemn and sombre together.
By the way, does that mean there is no point in Christians fasting today? No. Elsewhere Jesus give instructions on fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Later in the book of Acts, Paul, Barnabas and their church in Antioch will fast (see Acts 13 and 14). Fasting can still be an effective way to remove distractions, draw near to God and anticipate Jesus coming again.
Luke 5:36-39 (NIV) 36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'”
On verses 33-39: Jesus told these two parables to show that the message of the Pharisees and Jesus’ own message cannot fit together. Trying to fit Jesus’ message into the Pharisees’ teachings is like trying to put a new patch of cloth on an old garment, or like trying to pour new wine into old wineskins: you’ll just end up destroying both and missing the point of both.
What can we learn from this? Don’t try to fit Jesus and his message into another religious system or worldview. Otherwise, you’ll miss the point of who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You came for broken, imperfect people like me. Thank You that regardless of my background or my past mistakes, Your love still reaches to me. May I show a similar love to others as the love You showed me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN