13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus is still eating with sinners. The church is full of them. On any given Sunday, in the midst of any given Christian congregation, you will find them. Jesus is comfortable there and intends to make these people his friends.
One reason I say this has to do with our perception of hypocrisy. The true hypocrites in this story were the scribes of the Pharisees who thought eating with certain people was beneath them. Who were they to feel so self-righteous? In reality they needed Jesus too.
The church that we see is often a lot like the crowd here at Levi’s banquet. Jesus is surely present and so are his disciples. The disciples, as we know from the Gospels and Acts, were themselves in a state of continuous spiritual growth. They were imperfect on their very best days. And then there are those who are generic followers. They may not even be believers just yet. Or maybe they are very new to the faith and each day brings them a major lesson. Or they may just be friends of Levi who came to the banquet, who just heard of Jesus that day, and have no desire to repent of anything at this time.
Let’s expect a lot of ourselves as far as holiness and spiritual growth. Let’s also be gracious with others. You’re going to find yourself sitting next to some sinner, tax collector or present day equivalent next time you attend any church gathering. This isn’t the wrong crowd, but the right one, if you are looking for Jesus.