Summary: The Pharisees lived by a "patches" theology - if they could patch over the sin in their lives, the hole didn’t exist anymore. But Christians are not called to patch our old way of life. Do you know what we’re to do instead?
OPEN: I’ve noticed over the years that kids love jokes that are plays on words. For example, when I was a kid (now I never did this myself, you understand), but I’ve known kids who would call a neighbor and ask: “Is your refrigerator running?” (pause). When the person on the other end of the line said “Yes”, they’d laugh and say “Well, you better go and catch it before it gets away."
Another of my favorites was “How do you get down off an elephant?” Well, you don’t get “down” off an elephant; you get down off a duck.
And one I’ve always enjoyed:
“Pie are square?
No, pie are not square.
Pie are round.
Cornbread are square.”
Now I’ve told you those silly jokes so I could ask this one:
“When is a door not a door?” (pause)
“When it’s ‘ajar’” (a jar)
Essentially the joke is saying:
A door is not a door – when it is “something else”.
And that concept – that one thing can become “something else” - lies at the very heart of our story this morning.
In Luke 5 we read about Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.He has been teaching, and healing throughout Galilee, and He’s in the process of gathering the 12 men who are to become His closest followers. And now, He’s stopped at the booth of a man that Luke calls Levi (Matthew) to ask him to follow Him.
Levi was a tax collector.
Now for those of you not familiar with Scripture, tax collectors were NOT well liked back then. Their job was to collect taxes for Rome, hated occupiers of their homeland. And these collectors of Roman taxes made their living by taking a little extra off the top for themselves. And if they thought you could give a “little” extra – well, so much the better. There was not court of appeals. Whatever these men said you had to pay – you paid - you had no choice.
Thus, the Jews hated these tax collectors and viewed them as little better than prostitutes.
Even the Romans really didn’t like them. According to one of my sources (Amtract Dictionary of the Bible) Rome looked on them as being on the social plane as pickpockets and thieves.
Nobody liked these guys.
And, I suspect, when Jesus found him, Levi was tired of it all. He was tired of being rejected and turned away. Tired of being hated and spat upon.
I can picture him being a sad and lonely man who just wanted out – but he didn’t know how. He didn’t know how to change WHO he was and WHAT he was. And even if he did, nobody would let him forget what he had been, and how he’d made his living.
But Jesus didn’t care what Levi had BEEN.
He only cared about what Levi could BE.
And so Jesus has the audacity to associate with this man, but He even asks him to become his disciple and follow Him. Why, He even goes to a great feast Levi puts on for Jesus. And, of course, Levi invites a number of his friends - and of course his friends are mostly tax collectors.
Now the Pharisees are enraged by this.
How could this teacher, this Rabbi in Israel, possibly associate with such despicable people!
It helps to realize that the Pharisees were VERY religious people. Unlike the Sadducees (who were the other major religious group in Israel), the Pharisees believed that the Bible was THE word of God. I contained no errors. And they knew the Old Testament Scriptures far better than you or I ever could. They studied it day and night, examining even the most obscure statements and arguing with one another of each passage’s meaning.