While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As I think about the people I know, they basically come into two, very different kinds of groups: the Rule Followers and the Rule Breakers. When the Rule Followers work in their coloring book, they always try and stay inside the lines. Rule Breakers don’t seem to care about the lines. I wonder if they even see the lines.
Rule Followers are happy to live within the lines of life. They find comfort and satisfaction inside the lines. They like to follow driving directions and recipes exactly. And if a road is unexpectedly closed, or they find themselves without an ingredient, their world spins out of control, exploding into a supernova of hot gas and nuclear waste.
Rule Breakers are happy to live outside the lines of life. They love the excitement and adventure of exploring new, uncharted territory. While they would never buy a coloring book for themselves, when they are forced to use one, the lines are just a humorous recommendation that’s made to be ignored. They see driving directions and recipes as an amusing guideline. It’s like that line from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie; “the code is more what you would call a guideline than actual rules.”
When I look at Jesus, I see a marvelous mix of both. He’s firmly committed to stay within the lines that God makes, but has little concern for lines that people make. When God says to do something, he does it with all of his heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Just noodle about this scene from Jesus’ life. First of all, it took place in Levi’s house. In that day, in that place, in that culture, when you went into someone’s house, you were telling the world that you not only were willing to be seen with them publicly, but you also accepted them. There was nothing about them that might infect you, make you unclean before God or people.
But it was more than just the place, it was also the who.
· Levi – a notorious tax collector that had betrayed his people, family, country, religious traditions. He had thrown all this away, and more, to get money and power from Rome.
· Sinners – these are your average, run-or-the-mill sinners who were not towing the line for all the religious rules and regulations.
· Many – Jesus didn’t just sit down with one or two tax collectors and sinners. No, he welcomed many of them. And not just at this dinner, but as his followers
When asked about these people, Jesus says that he came for the people that are sick with sin. He didn’t come for the people that have all their stuff together, but for all the people who didn’t. He came for all the messy people that lived their lives apart from God.
Jesus goes to these people because of his calling and desire to reach those far away from his Father. He didn’t come to earth to have a great time, he came to serve. He didn’t come to be worshiped, he came to rescue.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus came to serve and give his life. But for who? The exact kind of people that the teachers of the law and Pharisees avoided like the plague. The people that the rich, famous, and powerful stay away from.
Which brings up an interesting question: where are you willing to go? Who are you willing to go to? To talk with? Touch? Become involved in their lives?
Remember, Jesus reached out to you and me, not when we had our stuff together, but when we were far away, his enemy. If he was willing to do that for us, then in response to his active and passionate love for us, we need to reach out to the kinds of people that our culture and society say to stay away from.
If they weren’t too dirty or evil for Jesus to stay away from, how can we decide that they are beneath us? If Jesus welcomed them, ate with them, talked with them, and became friends with them, how can we do anything else?