Eating With Sinners
Eating food is often closely linked with fellowship, as something about eating a meal with another person is very personal. The Lord desires to have fellowship with everyone, and has made it possible for every soul to have fellowship with Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Having left his former life behind, Levi made a great feast and invited many of his friends (composed of sinners and other tax collectors) to his house. He had heard the call of the Messiah, and so he uses food to draw others into close contact with the Lord Jesus.
We observe two types of people present with Jesus at the table. The first group was those who all of society despised. Tax collectors were employed by the hated Roman government and would oftentimes extort more than what Rome demanded. According to H. Lockyer, “Rabbis declared that if one family member took the office of tax collector, the whole family was disgraced.” The second kind of people present were the religious elite. Both sat in Jesus’s presence.
The religious elite were appalled at seeing this teacher, Jesus, eating and drinking with such known “sinners”. How can we not take note of the grace of the Lord Jesus in His reply to the Pharisees’ reaction to the company? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” If a Pharisee humbled himself and saw that he was no better than the worst tax collector at the table, he too would enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus. There are still many who may know about Jesus Christ, may even hear His sayings, but do not enjoy the fellowship with Him.
I was once a “Pharisee”. I was too proud of my own spiritual achievements to recognize that I had no fellowship the Savior. I had sat with others who knew Him and enjoyed His fellowship. I had heard His sayings and was even able to quote Him. I had believed much of what He said, however had not opened the door to my heart and received Him in.
Luke writes of another incident in which the Pharisees were present with tax collectors. Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” I don’t know of a greater thing to consider than the truth and grace of that statement. He who knows everything about me, has received me and enjoys fellowship with me. We who know Him, can say like the Pharisees, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
To which we say, “Thank you Lord Jesus!”