Summary: God is doing new things! It’s time to celebrate.
“No Point Starving at a Feast”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Tax-collectors are never popular, but in Jesus’ day it was much worse.
They were extortionists.
And more than that: they were working for the Romans, or for Herod, and their contact with Gentiles put them under political suspicion.
Let’s think for a moment what life would have been like for Levi day after day and year after year.
Suppose it was you.
You would sit in your hot little booth, waiting for travelers to pay the toll as they passed from one province to the next.
They wouldn’t enjoy it and neither would you.
Then think what it would be like having young Jesus, with a spring in His step and God’s Kingdom in His heart coming past you one day and simply asking you to follow Him.
Yes. It would feel just like a healing miracle!!!
Actually, verse 28 hints at something even more: it would be like a resurrection!!!
“Levi got up, left everything and followed him.”
So, how could Levi and His friends not celebrate?
They were in the middle of God’s new work, an outpouring of mercy and salvation which was upstaging anything that had come before it!!!
The first thing Levi did…and he would later be known as Matthew…was to invite Jesus to a feast!!!
He could well afford it, and he also invited his fellow tax-collectors and their outcast friends to meet Jesus as well!
Matthew’s first instinct was to share the wonder he had found.
John Wesley once said, “No [person] ever went to heaven alone; he must either find friends or make them.”
As the hymn proclaims, “That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it, you want to pass it on.”
So here we find ourselves, partying with a bunch of hated tax-collectors and outcastes.
And Jesus broke into that world, just as Jesus broke into the leper’s sealed off universe with a single touch!!!
Has Jesus broken into your world with a single touch?
If so, have you invited your friends to share in the excitement?
Jesus and the sinners were having a party, a huge feast with a huge crowd!
“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’?”
“Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”
This is what we might call today, a Mission Statement: Jesus is like a doctor Who can’t do His work unless He associates with the sick.
No longer are people going to be placed into categories.
The new age has broken in, and this new age is a time of forgiveness!
That’s what God has always promised.
This is the New Covenant that the Prophets talked about, and forgiveness here is walking down the street, and when people repent—forgiveness is theirs!!!
Never mind if it upsets the tidy classifications of old.
This is a party!
And like all of Jesus’ parties it looks like a bus stop!!!
There are folks there from every kind of background, age and nationality!
It’s a miniature messianic banquet, and all are invited!!!
Back in the 1960’s Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a’changing,” and when Jesus says the times are changing; they really are!!!
And that’s how Jesus answered the questions and criticisms that were leveled at Him, not surprisingly, when His movement didn’t look like what people expected a Kingdom-movement to look like.
Our Scripture passage is full of questions to which Jesus’ answer is, essentially, “Because everything’s different now.”
For instance, the question about fasting.
Fasting in Judaism was a sign of waiting, of bewailing the present time when God’s Kingdom still had not arrived!
It was a way of looking back to the disasters that Israel had suffered through, and humbling oneself in repentance to pray for God’s mercy.
But what if God’s mercy was now alive and active, healing, celebrating, creating a new world and inviting all to enjoy it?
This is like a wedding feast.
And the last thing you do at a wedding feast is abstain from food and drink!
It’s a celebration of life itself!
And yes. There is a dark note as well: One day the Bridegroom will be taken away, and then it will be time to fast again.
But it won’t be for long.
Luke’s Gospel ends with two Easter meals, one in Emmaus and one in the Upper Room!
The Bridegroom returns, and His risen life means that God’s new age has been truly launched for eternity!!!
It’s awesome that Jesus likens the Christian life to a wedding feast!!!