In Luke 5:27-32, is the story of when Jesus called Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, to be His disciple, and Levi had a big banquet at his house with Jesus as guest of honor, and invited all his friends (mostly tax collectors and sinners). The Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why do y’all eat with sinners?” Jesus heard what they thought, and said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick. I didn’t come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT
In Matthew 9:9-13: speaking of the same episode, Matthew (yes the same as Levi), tells the story like this: Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.” Then He added, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have not come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT
And in Mark 2:13-17: Same story; same comments, except this time it says, “There were many of this kind [tax collectors and sinners] who followed Him.”
‘Course the real revelation in this story comes in Luke 15, where it begins with, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees complain that he was associating with such sinful people – even eating with them.” Then Jesus told this story (actually 3 stories). First He told of a man who had 100 sheep, lost one, then left the 99 to go search for that one sheep till he found it; then he had a celebration. Just like, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and turns to God, than in 99 righteous people who haven’t strayed.”
Second, Jesus talks about the woman who lost a coin: she searched high and low till she found it, then she called all the neighbors and had a party to celebrate; just like “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Third: Jesus told the story of the “Lost Son”, the one we know as the “Prodigal Son”. We all know the story, how the younger son takes the father’s money and goes way off and wastes it on wine, women and song. Then, when he’s feeding pigs and starving because Jews don’t each pork (or pork feed either), he “comes to himself”, and goes home to repent and become a servant in his father’s house. But the father won’t have it. He dresses him in velvet; puts a ring on his finger, kills the fatted calf, and has a gigantic party, because his son, who was lost, is found; the one who was dead, is come back to life.” The story then addresses the older brother, who is unforgiving (he’s the one who is often equated with the Pharisees.
If you look back to the beginning of these episodes, the Pharisees are complaining about the sinners, and Jesus tells these stories, TO THEM.
What ‘moral’ can we draw from these passages about tax collectors and sinners on the one hand, vs the Pharisees on the other? What does Jesus think? If we’re disciples (students/followers) of Jesus, if we have Jesus’ Spirit living in our hearts, what are we supposed to think? Let’s see. Continue reading