The Calling of a Tax Collector Part 2 of 2
by John Lowe
I don’t know if the scribes asked Jesus these types of silly questions, but they sure could criticize. But, Jesus handles criticism better than we do. I have never been able to take criticism well, and that can probably be attributed to pride. But, we find it really easy to pass out criticism to others. Isn’t it amazing how easily criticism can roll from our lips when we see the unusual behavior of another person? One woman has come up with an insightful illustration that may help us to realize that even if we don’t approve of it there may be a good reason for a person’s behavior.
Imagine a group of fish swimming together in a school. All of them are moving in the same direction with comparable style when suddenly one of them starts destroying the unity of the school. He begins to twist and swerve from side to side with rapid, shaky moves. The older fish are annoyed with the nonconformity of this young, immature fish. They show their disapproval by voicing their disgust, “We don’t swim like that around here.” Turning to their offspring, they declare, “That type of behavior is totally unacceptable.” Before they can take action against the renegade fish, his thrashing tail disappears at the surface of the lake. A hook in his mouth rather than rebellion in his heart was the cause of all his distasteful activity.
How many times have we been equally guilty of displaying our displeasure? When someone was wrestling with a hook, and needed a friend to understand their painful predicament, we said, “I’ll pray for you,” and walked away. We need to keep-in-mind that there may be a much deeper explanation for the behavior that we quickly label as “wrong.”
Finally, let’s look at how Jesus responds to the challenge. We are told that Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Jesus is the agent of change in the text. He is the One who makes all the difference, and it is His love and grace that reveals the true heart of the issue for the Pharisees; their lack of love and compassion. It is this fact that Jesus is attempting to change and to do that, He must tear down the walls of legalism.
Jesus responds to their accusations and sets the record straight. He states the purpose of His actions and defends the disciples. Jesus tells the Pharisees and teachers that He is on this earth to call the sinners to repentance. Jesus is not there to continue the tradition of living by rigid religious regulations, but He has come to set the people free from it.
There is a clear picture of grace and mercy here that the Pharisees could not see and did not wish to see. They were more concerned with keeping their position and power in the Jewish society. The Pharisees loved no one but themselves. This seems to be an ordinary event, and there’s nothing unusual about the banquet. But Jesus takes advantage of the situation to teach the Pharisees a lesson about the love of God. He uses the calling of Levi to demonstrate the love of God in action and to reveal a little more about His purpose and His mission. This is the heart of Jesus’ personal ministry, because He shares His love on the basis of who needs it rather than who is worthy of it. And the truth is, no one is worthy of the love of God.
Now I want to end by making an Application to us today. Jesus is setting a new standard for God’s people; He wants us to share His love and mercy with others. He is breaking down the walls of tradition and prejudice, because no one deserves God’s grace, but it is a free gift for all who will accept it. Jesus wants the people to see that every person has value in the eyes of God and that they are precious to Him. Jesus is calling Levi because He sees the potential he has with the help of God’s grace and love. Jesus sets the standard very clearly and if we are to follow Him; we must show the love of God at all times to all people. There is no one who is worthy of God and His grace, but it is a free gift given by God through Christ. We have the responsibility and the honor of sharing this great love and wondrous grace of Jesus with the world. It is a large task and a holy undertaking, but it must be done. Jesus has set the example for us to follow and live by. It is this example that urges us farther on in the cause of Christ. Jesus is the cure for suffering in this world.