Scripture (Luke 5: 27-32)
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."
There is something fishy about this Gospel. To be blunt it is simply not believable. If we are to believe Luke the story goes like this:
1. Jesus walks up to the customs post where Levi is working.
2. He says to Levi “follow me.”
3. Levi gets up and leaves everything behind.
4. A party ensues
Seriously? This just doesn’t happen. Maybe we are culturally conditioned, but if some stranger walks up and says, “follow me,” calling the authorities is not an overreaction. This begs the question: why did people follow Jesus?
This Gospel might make more sense if we change the order of the verses. Let’s pretend for a moment, that Jesus and Levi knew one another. Perhaps Jesus found himself at the party with tax collectors and sinners hosted by Levi. He ate, drank, told jokes, sang, laughed, talked politics, caroused and celebrated with them. He enjoyed the company of people that the religious leaders rejected as outcasts and labeled sinners. Then when the Pharisees call him out for associating with the unclean, the dregs, the sinful, the scum; Jesus defends his “shady” friends. He tells the Pharisees that these are the very people for whom he was sent into the world. Sometimes it takes someone else to help us see our own value. Sometimes being accepted, loved and forgiven, when we don’t deserve it, is liberating and life changing.
This assertion is not without other evidence. Throughout the Gospels there are stories of Jesus being with, accepting, forgiving and loving people who have sinned, been judged, minimized and thrown away. The Samaritan Woman, Zaccheaus and the woman caught in adultery are a few that come to mind. In John’s Gospel, Jesus states flat out, “I didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it.” What Jesus does is give Levi and Zaccheaus and the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman and the rich young man and . . . me . . . and . . . you . . . a glimpse into who we truly are- God’s beloved!
Now this is a person, when they show up at my work and says, “Come follow me” for whom I would leave everything else behind and be excited for whatever adventure was ahead of us.
· What attitudes or behaviors prevent you from seeing yourself as God’s beloved?
· How do you help others see their value and importance?
· What do you need to follow Jesus with abandonment?
FAST from negative and self-diminishing thoughts.
PRAY with this music video. Offer thanks for being God’s beloved; pray to be delivered from unhealthy guilt to the freedom of accepting you are God’s beloved.
GIVE forgiveness to someone you resent or against whom you are holding a grudge.
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University. He is married to Maribeth. Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.