“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5.27-32
Jimmy Dorrell is the pastor of Church Under the Bridge in Waco. It’s a ministry to the homeless, the hurting, the poor and the forgotten. For some thirty years Jimmy has been living in the same community with those he ministers. He doesn’t drive a fancy car. His house is modest but not a mansion. Jimmy practices what he preaches. He, like Jesus, eats with sinners.
What was the significance of Jesus calling forth Levi, the tax collector, and going to his house for dinner? Levi wasn’t homeless, he wasn’t poor. Levi even threw a great banquet for Jesus at his house and brought his other tax collector buddies to join along. The Pharisees and teachers of the law ‘complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ But it didn’t stop Jesus. For he replied, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus categorized any sinner as sick. The rich could be sick as well as the poor. Jimmy Dorrell’s congregation of homeless friends are just as sick and sin-struck as the tax collector Levi who was making a fortune collecting and stealing money for the Roman Empire. Both were poor in spirit and both groups needed Jesus.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law did not consider themselves to be poor or in sin. That was their first mistake. But Jesus said, “I have not to come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Therefore, they were right where they needed to be – in close proximity to Jesus – for they were sinners.
Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that we have “all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” Earlier, in the same chapter, he writes, “There is no one holy, no not one,” Romans 3.10. We all fall into the category of lost, sick and sinful. Without a Savior, no one can be saved. But with Jesus, with a Good Shepherd who offers salvation, forgiveness and compassion, we can be made whole and complete in God.
Jesus ate with “sinners” and so should we. Whether we meet for a meal with those who live under the bridge in Waco, or have lunch with a stock broker on Wall Street, every soul needs Christ and matters to God.
“O Lord God, you are good. I praise you for you are the God of second chances. You rescued us while we were in our sin and you saved us from our selves. Thank you for sending Jesus so we might have life today and life to come. Help make us holy and healthy so others might find saving grace in your arms. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen