We’ve seen Jesus call his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, John and James, overwhelming them with a huge catch of fish. And ever since they’ve been fishing for men…We’ve seen the leper healed and cleansed from his disease, so overwhelmed and changed by his encounter with Jesus there was just no way to keep him quiet about it. We’ve had the scene of the large crowd of Pharisees who wouldn’t make room for a paralyzed man come for miracle they supposedly wanted to see. And yet, a miracle they saw anyway. “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.””
Luke 5:26 ESV.
So we come to the call of Levi, or as we now know him, Matthew. “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”” Luke 5:27-32 ESV. I don’t know for sure, but if you read the story it seems as though Matthew may have been very nearby, near enough to either be an eyewitness or at least hear very directly about what has been going on. We usually read this and think Matthew just randomly got up and left his booth without knowing anything about Jesus, but if you read the story, both here and in Matthew’s gospel, it doesn’t look that way. Matthew was probably very aware of all that had been going on with Jesus, in both instances Jesus calls him after telling the paralytic to take up your bed and walk!!
Either way, these Pharisees have witnessed the same miracle in Luke chapter 5 that everybody else did. They saw the paralytic both healed and forgiven. They, too, had heard about Jesus, this is why they came out to see him in the first place. But despite the fact that they saw the healing of the paralytic, and had heard all the other stories of healing brought by Jesus, they had no intention (or ability) to rethink all that they knew about the Kingdom of God and who it was for. And they knew it was most definitely not for tax collectors and sinners!! And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Or as the NLT puts it – “But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum? ””. Luke 5:30 NLT.
Why does Jesus eat with such scum? This is the paradigm that these Pharisees were stuck in. They couldn’t get beyond seeing others as being less than themselves. They just could not get beyond their dividing lines and their (self-imposed) rules and regulations. They could not get beyond all those Jesus was including (not excluding) in his bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Sometimes we can be a little bit too perfect. Sometimes we can get things a little bit too right. But when we know our bibles, spend time in prayer, help the poor, share the good news, and getting just right…we need to make sure our right does not become a wrong. We’ve heard the good news, we’ve come to the table. But we’re not finished. Our King is still building his Kingdom. He’s still calling sinners. He’s still healing the sick. Let’s not be the crowd waiting on Jesus to do something, blocking the sick one trying to get to Jesus. Let’s not be the rule-makers, looking in and wondering who let all those sinners and rule breakers in.
The Pharisees wouldn’t let the sick or the sinner come to Jesus. Jesus called them anyway. Whether they had to come in through the roof, or just suffer the indignation of the righteous wondering exactly who let them in, they got to Jesus. Or, you could say, Jesus got his men (and women). Where did that leave the Pharisees. On the outside looking in. Out there in that outer darkness, weeping and gnashing their teeth…