Gospel: Luke 5:27-32
After this, Jesus went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax-office, he said to him, “Follow me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.
Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.”
The Pharisees divided every- thing into categories of clean and unclean, pure and impure, and, when it came to people, the righteous and sinners. For some- one to consort with sinners— including tax collectors who served the Roman occupation— would be to risk becoming one of the unclean. Naturally these Pharisees were scandalized to see Jesus—a supposed holy man—visiting tax collectors like Levi in their homes and sharing the table with public sinners. This was only one of the ways that Jesus caused scandal. His willingness to love and enter into relationship with people of ill repute defied a whole religious culture. He was turning the tables on an entire system that ranked people on the basis of their relative closeness or distance from God.
Of course, in calling Levi and similar types to follow him, Jesus was not endorsing their condition or their occupations. But perhaps he found a warmer reception with those in need of healing than among the righteous people, impervious as they were to the call to conversion. It is harder to call the righteous to a change of heart. In that sense, it is sinners, seeking forgiveness, who are closer to the Kingdom of God.
© Copyright Bible Diary 2019