Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Today we see Jesus “slumming” by hanging out with tax collectors and other various sinners. Eating with the sort of people that good folk would never be seen with – in fact, at the time good people were prohibited by law from being in the company of the sort of people Jesus was sharing food with.
These sorts of casual and formal prohibitions continue to exist today. Parolees are not allowed to be in the company of their former partners in crime. Alcoholics are encouraged to stop hanging around with their old drinking buddies. You probably don’t want your kids to hang out with the class troublemakers. The idea is and I suppose was that you are known by the company you keep. If you keep company with sinners, people might think you are one. Or being friends with people who do not share your moral stands might be seen as an indication that you condone their activities. Or there’s always the chance that their bad habits might rub off on you – you might become a sinner just like them. But there’s also the chance that your good habits might rub off on them.
This is the principle Jesus was working on. He knew these were the people who needed him the most. The doctor is invaluable to the sick. That’s not to say that well people never need a doctor. They need regular checkups and preventative care, but the sick people need the emergency attention. They have stuff that needs fixed. The analogy from Hebrews can also be seen as medical: the sword that cuts like a knife between joint and marrow seems rather surgical. The tax collectors and the like have sin that needs to be excised, surgically removed. They need to change their ways, and they need a chance, and they need a role model. And they know it. They want Jesus to help them.
This is another major point in the story. When Jesus calls
Levi, Levi immediately leaves his former life – one he can no longer return
to—and follows Jesus. He wants to change. The Pharisees who
are condemning Jesus’ choice of dining companions do not feel a need to
change. As a teacher, I know that students who do not have a strong
background, but who have enthusiasm and a desire to learn can do better
than students who think they already have all the answers. Levi acknowledges
his sins and has a strong desire to change for the better. He knows
he needs a doctor and he wants very much to be healed. And that’s
just what the doctor ordered.
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