Hanging Out With Sinners
Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.”
After healing the paralytic in Luke 5, Jesus “went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (v. 27).
The Roman Empire needed a lot of tax money to fuel their gigantic government. So when the Romans occupied a land, they would enlist local people to collect taxes. As long as the local tax collectors forwarded to Rome the required tax, they could charge whatever they wanted to. For example, let’s say the Roman government declared 10 percent as the taxation rate. A local tax gatherer could charge 20 percent, send 10 percent to Rome, and keep 10 percent for himself. Remember there was no media; there was no published tax manual. Nobody knew what the tax rate was. Whatever a local tax gatherer could muscle his way into collecting, the people had to pay. That’s why Israel’s tax collectors were so hated by the Jewish people. They were seen as traitors: Jews not only collecting taxes for the occupying Romans but also cheating fellow Jews.
Jesus called a tax gatherer named Levi (also called Matthew) to follow Him. The Bible describes Levi’s response: “he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (v. 28).
Matthew wanted to celebrate his call to follow Jesus. He also wanted his friends to meet Jesus. So what did he do? “Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them” (v. 29). Matthew was a brand-new Christian. The only people he knew were non-Christians and tax gatherers. So he invited them to his party to meet Jesus. But the Pharisees couldn’t handle that. They didn’t want to be around unbelievers; they might get contaminated. “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’” (v. 30). The Pharisees thought Jesus must be a sinner because He hung around sinners.
Notice how Jesus answered: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick” (v. 31). Can you imagine going up to a doctor and saying, “Doc, why do you hang around sick people all the time? Aren’t you afraid you will catch their diseases?” A doctor’s calling is to be around those who are sick. That’s what Jesus was saying.
And in case they missed that point, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (v. 32). The fact is, we are all sinners. We all need God’s forgiveness. The people Jesus hung around understood that, but the Pharisees didn’t recognize their sin. That was the difference between the Pharisees and the rest of the people. The Pharisees didn’t understand that they were just as unrighteous as anyone else.
~ Dr, Robert Jeffress ~