Jesus met a man named Levi who happened to be a tax collector. The encounter was an amazing illustration of love from Jesus, not only meant for Levi but for all sinners and a clear model of how we followers of Christ are to live. The story starts in a public setting and in front of this large crowd of people surrounding Levi who is doing business, Jesus calls him out to follow Him – Levi, a man from a particularly hated class of people – to follow Him. One had to wonder what Jesus was thinking at the time because tax collectors were the scorn of the religious leaders and accordingly, Levi had no hope – he was excommunicated from all religious fellowship.
It was a simple enough invitation – and the invitation to come back into fellowship with God that set Levi free. It set the scene for one big dinner party where Levi wanted all his friends and fellow sinners to meet the One who set him free from hopelessness. The guest of honour was Jesus Himself and he never hesitated. That was His pattern – if the religious leaders avoided, He and His disciples were pleased to attend. How else was the Good News of the Kingdom of God to be shared with those who needed that good news?
You imagine our own scene today if were to gather at such a party. Most of our trouble would come from those who are a bit overly devoted to legalism and the appearance of righteousness. Unfortunately, many would not accept an invitation to such a dinner party.
Choice is rather straight forward – keep to those who are just like us or meet the lost and broken where they live, sharing the hope of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus showed us how to live that night at Levi’s dinner party. We are to share the good news with those who need it, in humility and gratitude that we have been set free.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10
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, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 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?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:27-32