Second, Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for having dinner with “sinners” –
15While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
By that critique, we learn a lot about how these Pharisees viewed themselves and others. Why is Jesus eating with those kinds of people? He is supposedly a Rabbi, a religious man like us and we certainly don’t mingle with tax collectors and sinners. We are too good for them.
With that one statement, we can infer that these Pharisees divided up everyone into 2 groups — people I value, people who are up to my level, who are worth my time AND people who are below me, those I can safely ignore.
Sin was something they had studied and could quantify into some system and by following this rule and that regulation, they could elevate themselves above those who ignored the laws of God.
Sadly, religion is one reason why we fail to see God. It’s ironic, but it happens all the time. We are always looking to identify ways to elevate ourselves above others using religious performance. I pray more and read more Bible, and therefore, I am more spiritual. You should respect me. It’s sad.
For non-religious people, we are so busy getting degrees and making money and impressing our parents and friends that God could be standing right in front of us, but we don’t see him. We are too busy making ourselves look good to notice our need for Jesus. I am from Harvard and you go to community college; therefore, you are not worth my time.
Whether it is in the arena of the secular world or in the spiritual arena, we are so fixated on looking good before one another — elevating ourselves above others, distancing ourselves from others — so that we can feel good about ourselves and in the process, we miss the real Jesus.
To encounter Jesus, we are offered a clue in verse 17 —
17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Only the sick need a doctor. Jesus is the Great Physician who came to do surgery on our hearts. Do you feel you are sick? If you think you are alright, that all you need is a band-aid for a paper cut, then Jesus’ offer of deep healing will be missed.
In Romans, it says the laws were given not so we can feel great at how good we are at keeping them, but the purpose of the law is to show us that we are sinners. The laws were not given so that we can feel pride over others that we are successful in abiding by them while others knowingly or unknowingly are law breakers. No, the laws of God were given so that we can see how miserably short we fall in meeting God’s holy standards.
If you strip away all the externals and posturing and appearances before men and we took a hard look at yourself, what do you see?
I think you would see that we are all deeply sick. We are in need of major surgery. Band-aids will not suffice.
I think you would see that when Jesus was hanging out with “sinners,” he was eating and laughing among people who were just like us. We all need Jesus.
Do you feel that you are a sinner in need of him? If not, then you are not connecting with the real Jesus. You are just practicing religion.