When Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he walked along, he saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him.
And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with him and his disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus.
But Pharisees, men educated in the law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
We spontaneously think of the verb “to collaborate” in the positive sense of “work with another” (Collins Dictionary). But this latter dictionary also defines the verb “to collaborate” in this negative sense of “cooperate as a traitor, esp. with an enemy occupying one’s own country.”
Now, at the time of Jesus, Palestine was under Roman rule and most Jews hated these undesirable masters. But some Jews accepted to side with them against their own countrymen for a profit. Such were the tax collectors. And in today’s gospel reading we see Jesus calling one of these, Levi, to become no less than an apostle! What is going on here?
Well, as Jesus explains quite candidly, he is a doctor and, as a doctor, he is bound to seek the company of sick people. Tax collectors and other categories of “sinners” are spiritually sick, there is no doubt about it. Hence his keeping company with them. Would you blame a doctor for spending most of his time with patients?
Most Christians think that their sins prevent Jesus from coming to them. And so, they pretend that they are good people, not lousy sinners. But the opposite is true. Show your sins to Jesus in a trusting appeal and you will always find him at your side.
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