In the short story told in this passage, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day express shock that Jesus would eat with sinners and tax collectors. According to Everett Ferguson (Backgrounds, 88) the tax collectors were no less honest than other businessmen, but were despised due to their liaison with the Romans. Whatever the nuances, Luke clearly demonstrates that social conventions dictated that religious leaders, such as Jesus, should not fellowship with these unsavory characters.
In addition to vs 31-32, I came across a quote that contrasts the attitudes of Jesus and the Pharisees towards these people. “For Jesus, recovery is the issue, not quarantine.” (Bock, Vol 1, 496) Jesus accepted the hospitality of Levi and got to know his friends. He did this so that he could provide healing, while the Pharisees quarantined themselves from these people who might infect them.
Churches and individual Christians still struggle with this dilemma. We’re like cops in movies who go undercover. How far under can we go before we become one of them? Often the risks convince us we’re better off staying in the safe quarantine zone rather than involving ourselves in the lives of people outside the church. We call people to repentance by standing on the outside with a megaphone pointing at the areas of life that need changing. Jesus went into the house, ate and drank with the community then called them to follow him.
To prevent this posting getting too long, I’ll make several short points and you can discuss them further with me by leaving a comment.
- Jesus didn’t enter this situation alone, his disciples were with him. He didn’t have a group of “righteous” friends and “sinful” friends that he flitted between. He made sure his two worlds collided. What do we learn from that?
- In my sermon I suggested that the Pharisees expected Jesus to be hanging with the “righteous” people at the synagogue rather than eating with sinners. If Jesus came to our towns, where would he spend his time? Are our churches more Godly than the Jews’ synagogues?
- We often have separate groups of church and non-church friends. What are some ways you’ve found or seen to bring the two groups together?
- What can churches do to better mingle with the unchurched “sinners” in the surrounding community? What are some effective missional approaches you’ve seen or heard of?