Devotional: March 5, 2021
30The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 31Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’
Luke 5: 30-32 NRSV
Jesus’ interaction with Pharisees and scribes is instructive and inspiring. A few verses earlier, Jesus had called upon Levi, a tax-collector, to follow him. Jewish tax collectors for the Roman government were notoriously corrupt. No one likes to pay taxes, even though we know we need to do so. Yet these particular tax collectors make today’s tax collectors look like newborn babies! (well, most of the time).
After hearing Jesus’ question, Levi’s response is immediate and pure. He gets up from his tax-collecting table, leaves everything, and follows Jesus. Levi was all in for Jesus from that point on. Not surprisingly, he decided to throw a party for his colleagues, to introduce them to Jesus.
I imagine Jesus was enjoying this dinner, as were Levi and his tax collector friends. The only people who had a problem with it were the Pharisees and scribes, aka lawyers and bible-teachers.
The Pharisees question, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” reveals much about their world view. They probably viewed all tax collectors as irredeemable sinners. Besides making such overly broad generalizations, they were also labeling group of people. In their minds, “If you're a tax collector, you’re a sinner!” This exaggerated belief was partly due to the Pharisees over-inflated sense of pride in themselves. Perhaps they forgot that all people sin, including scribes and Pharisees! By belittling others, they were hyping themselves and insinuating that they were sinless.
Jesus’ response is, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Another way of saying this might have been for Jesus to say, “I am eating with them right now, because they have the greatest need for me.” Jesus loves everyone, and He shares Himself, and gives His time to anyone who will receive Him.
The bottom line is we all need Jesus, and none of us are ever beyond redemption. Not only that, buty it is not for us to decide who is and isn’t worthy of Christ’s forgiveness. Christ’s love is for all, including those whose “sin” is more obvious. Yet we all must do our part: admitting that we have sinned, and then asking the Lord to forgive us. Jesus was humble, and showed us how to be humble. When we are honest with ourselves, we become sponges for His love and forgiveness. Jewish tax collectors were social pariahs. Yet Jesus still loved them. They felt loved, and responded to Jesus’ love in a big way.
Jesus shared a meal with the tax collectors, because He saw their potential. He them for whom they could be, not for what they were at the moment. We, too, share a meal with Christ when we take communion. We come to the table acknowledging we are not perfect. We have sinned. Through His grace, we are forgiven and saved.
God’s love always outweighs our sin. Not only that, our sin is the reason Jesus came to minister among us. Sin is powerful, but God’s love reaches right through it. Praise God!
Thank you, Lord, for providing spiritual nourishment for me. Forgive me when I judge others, and sometimes feel superior to them. Help me to see others as You see me. Open my eyes to Your truth, and not the world’s mistaken “truth.” Humble me, and direct me to be the person who leads other people towards You, and not away from You. I pray this prayer in Your holy name, Amen.