Jesus continues to challenge the establishment today. He is such a rabble-rouser! Have you thought about that!?
In today’s passage, we encounter Levi, who we assume later becomes Matthew. Levi is a tax collector, and sitting at his tax booth, Jesus says to him, “Follow me.” He leaves everything and follows Jesus.
Before he leaves, he decided to throw a huge party for Jesus in his house, and so all his friends – fellow tax collectors also come to the party. Naturally when the Pharisees and scribes get wind of this they complain to the disciples about it, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (You see, just EATING and drinking with tax collectors was considered a sin, an offensive act for Jews, where food laws clearly separate the properly observant Jews from sinners.)
Jesus responds with, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
Jesus is challenging us still. In our current society, there are many who would quickly say, “Oh, he hangs around the wrong crowd,” if they saw a fellow Christian hanging out with a non-Christian. And I know some well-meaning church folks who would panic if they were told them their job as a Christian was to hang out at the homeless shelters, the bars and clubs, and the prisons.
Because, you see, a tax collector in that time was not like an IRS agent today. It was someone actually detested – a henchman of Rome. It was like a dirty word. Today, it would be like Jesus partying with ISIS members here in America – someone who represents an antithesis to everything we stand for.
And Jesus reaches out to him. And the relationship transforms.
It becomes clear that if one is going to follow Jesus, one better be ready to have some new rules. And these are new, wacky rules based on principles of love and acceptance, not the Levitical codes about cleanliness.
I wonder where that leaves us today? Are we living up to these challenges?
Because this is RADICAL LOVE and ACCEPTANCE.