Luke 5: Jesus Calls Sinners

  • Read Luke 5:27-32 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (January 31) you can listen to it here.

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?


  1. altonwoods

    What are some effective missional approaches you’ve seen or heard of?

    You might be interested in what we’re doing,we’ve set up an outreach center to help people struggling with addictions.

    God Bless!

  2. Julie

    I have come to really like this topic B/C it keeps coming up in my life . . . it is God telling me to do something abt. it. He first had to make me uncomfortable!

    I would LOVE to have my worlds collide. They only do a bit, and the thought pushes me to prayerfully consider ways I can make that happen.

    No, I don’t think our churches are more godly than the synagogue was. People are still human whether in Christ or looking for his coming, with all the wants, needs and temptations involved in being human.

    WFR did the best job I’ve ever seen of bringing the 2 grps together AND having a missional approach to the community – NOT just sending money overseas. I would say it’s most clearly portrayed in CR, but there are other ways in which I see it in their Body life also.

    And yes, each church has unique gifts and abilities dep. on whom God brings to it. It takes time to knit a local body together, recognize those gifts and have the collective courage and commitment to act on them. Basically, it takes adequate transformation in individuals’ lives to be countercultural as a Body and merge those 2 grps.

    I wish we could run a nonprofit storefront coffee house in Northgate Plaza. It would also take manpower to run tho . . . just a thought.

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