There he goes again, upsetting the order of things. Jesus had been
very busy healing the sick, forgiving sins and irritating the Pharisees.
They were the ones that were hung up on order and structure, particularly
since they were the ones at the top of the order. When Jesus came
along, they were no longer the ones at the center of attention---the
ones to whom others looked to for guidance and authority. Now the
ones at the center of attention were the sinners. . . . tax collectors
and crooks, the very dregs of society. Jesus had just encountered
Levi, known in the community as a despised tax collector. Those in
that profession were known for their scandalous practices, extorting
money from the poor, skimming off the top and giving the rest to the
Romans. And to everyone’s amazement Jesus chose to go to dinner
at Levi’s house. . . a party big enough that they were spread
throughout the courtyard. It was a party of crooks and sinners, in
plain view of everyone. The Pharisees, who had not been invited to
the party, loitered around the periphery, complaining about Jesus
eating and drinking with the dregs of society, the very ones they
took great pains to stay away from.
This gave Jesus a wonderful opportunity to define who he
was and what purpose defined his life.
He provided the analogy that it is not healthy people who need medical
help, but those that are sick. It is not the righteous that needed
Jesus, but those sinners who need changed hearts and lives. His purpose
was to call sinners to change the way they thought and acted, not
to call people who thought they had God’s approval. Only in
his need, did Levi undergo the transformation that would cause him
to leave everything, follow Jesus and become the disciple, Matthew.
It is the perspective that makes the difference. Those who
are healthy don’t perceive that they need help and consequently,
won’t pursue it. The sick, however, are desperate for help,
seeking out those that can heal them. People who feel like they are
righteous don’t perceive that they have any need and consequently,
will not be open to the idea that their hearts and minds need conversion.
Perhaps the one universal need we have is a transformation
of our hearts and minds. Only when we consider ourselves in need of
grace, can we become the recipient of it. Only when we understand
that we don’t deserve it, is when we get it. Only when we feel
distanced from God because of our failures and imperfections, are
we open to God drawing us close. Only when we feel unworthy and unlovable,
does God fill us with value and unconditional love. It’s an
upside down kind of deal. . . thank God that when we are on the bottom,
he brings us to the top.