Sheer Grace

Rev. David Kluge

Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:29-32)

No one likes the tax collector. This was especially true in our Lord’s day. Tax collectors were viewed as collaborators with the Romans who occupied their land and were notorious thieves. So why, as the Pharisees asked, was Jesus associating with Levi and his friends? Jesus certainly did not condone what Levi did in his selfishness. Levi was, in Jesus’ words, a sick man. He was as sick, if not more so, than the leper and paralytic Jesus had just healed. How to bring about change? That’s the question.

The approach taken by the Pharisees is all too familiar to us. It’s easy to stand back in our pious self-righteousness and condemn others for their sin. It’s easy to see the “speck” in our brother’s or sister’s eye but fail to see the “plank” in our own eye. (Matthew 7:3-5) But that approach only alienates.

In the verses preceding those of our text Jesus healed a leper and a paralytic. Both were acts of sheer grace and brought about a dramatic change in their lives. It is then that Jesus calls Levi saying, “Follow me!” That call too was an act of sheer grace and turned Levi’s life around. For most of us our call came with the waters of our baptism. That too was an act of sheer grace.

Prayer: Gracious and loving Lord you have called out of darkness into your light. May your love for us be the driving force in our lives to the end that the “sick” of this world may, like Levi, be led to a new and better life in your Son. In his name we pray. Amen.

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