“Later, Jesus went to Matthew’s home to share a meal with him. Many other tax collectors and outcasts of society were invited to eat with Jesus and his disciples. When those known as the Pharisees saw what was happening, they were indignant, and they kept asking Jesus’ disciples, “Why would your Master dine with such lowlifes?”When Jesus overheard this, he spoke up and said, “Healthy people don’t need to see a doctor, but the sick will go for treatment.” – Matthew 9:10-12.
If you lived in Capernaum in Biblical times and asked the people to name a lowlife, they would most likely have pointed to the man sitting in the tax collector’s booth—Levi (Matthew). Back then, you did not want to be a tax collector. They bunched the tax collectors together with the criminals, with the murderers and the thieves. In New Testament days, a tax collector would buy his job and then use all the tricks of the trade: lying, fraud, extortion, cheating, bribery to make a handsome profit. Tax collectors. including Levi were notorious for squeezing the little guy and swindling the government. And Levi chose to be a tax collector. When the Pharisees saw Levi, they would turn their heads and spit. They hated sinners. They hated Levi. They thanked God that they were not like this tax collector.
What does the fact that Jesus was attracted to sinners say about Him? Over and over we find Jesus, God in a body, interacting with people who were far from God. Yet there they are, face-to-face with righteousness personified.
Jesus’ first response to sinful people, other than some religious leaders, was not judgment, condemnation, or even a counseling session. He offered something infinitely better. The account of the sinful woman at the well in John 4 is a good example as is the woman caught in adultery in John 8 or even Jesus calling Levi (Matthew) to join His entourage and dining with sinners and tax collectors in Matthew 9.
Jesus sees value in all people. That’s why He came to earth to redeem as many as would respond to His rescue plan. Jesus saw beyond race, gender, cultural divisions, and especially sin. The spirit of Christ indeed dwells in all those who follow Christ. John 1:14 (ESV) tells us “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Full of grace and truth, Jesus did not come to strike a balance between grace and truth. He brought both. John had seen this firsthand. He had watched Jesus apply the perfect blend of grace and truth to each individual He encountered. Jesus doesn’t just love sinners in some generic, abstract way. He extended His customary grace-filled invitation to the most unusual candidate imaginable: a tax collector named Levi, and to each one of us.
- What in your mind is the difference in loving and liking someone?
- Since God is gracious to undeserving sinners, what can we do this week to do the same?