FRIDAY 3.10.23 Luke 5:27-32, 18:9-14
27 Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
28 Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. 30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 32 I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”
9 Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: 10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
As we study Jesus' message of repentance, the great spiritual hazard is the idea (conscious or subconscious) that “those bad people need to repent, but I don’t—I’m a good person.” As today’s readings show, Jesus never encouraged or accepted any version of that idea. It probably shocked many of his hearers to think that that awful tax collector (who worked corruptly with the Romans) went home right with God, and the Pharisee (“I’m not like everyone else”) didn’t.
- The apostle Paul had, at one point, been like the Pharisee in Jesus' story (cf. Philippians 3:4-7). But he trusted Jesus' teaching about repentance so fully that, when he sent his message of good news to Roman Christians he’d never met, he said, “There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace” (Romans 3:22-24). What helps you remember that you need repentance as a regular rhythm in your spiritual life?
- Luke made sure his story reflected the irony of the Pharisees grumbling about Jesus eating with “sinners.” “The Pharisees refer here to people, like the tax collectors, who they think disobey God’s laws all the time. But in Luke, Jesus can’t avoid eating with sinners, since all, including Pharisees, are sinners…. He came to call everyone to change.” * What are some of the most significant, challenging ways in which Jesus has called, and is calling, you to change?
Lord Jesus, this isn’t abstract, but personal. I put my person, my “self,” on the line as a sinner who chooses to be your repentant follower. Thank you for calling me as you did Levi the tax collector. Amen.
In case you missed it...
During Lent, we have a weekly video that will help you reflect on the key themes from Words that Changed the World: The Message of Jesus. Pastor Valerie Vogt leads us through our first video. Click here to watch it on YouTube (or click on the image below).
* Richard B. Vinson, study notes on Luke 5:30-32 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 117 NT.
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Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.