Identity of the King 5: The Friend of Sinners

For Meditation 

In these two stories in Luke 5, we see Jesus forming friendships that could be deemed scandalous. Jesus is interacting with two characters here — the man with leprosy, and Levi, the tax collector. Seemingly two very different individuals, the leper and Levi are actually very similar in that they both represent social and religious outsiders— the leper because of his disease which made him physically and morally unclean, and the tax collector because of his behavior which made him religiously unclean.

Jesus however, does something remarkable here by crossing boundaries, and making sure both of these people were included in many aspects of his life. Jesus includes them in his eating and drinking and even goes as far as having parties with them. In doing so, Jesus is celebrating - in a dramatic way - how God’s kingdom breaks through our human boundaries, and demonstrates that the grace of God is a powerful force.

As Jesus extends friendship to those who are lost and broken, he forms a new kind of community with those previously excluded, deemed unworthy and cast out. He pronounces them clean and welcomed through his grace. These stories teach us what it means for us to be included in his kingdom community, and also who else God wants us include in this community. 

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Luke 5:12-16, 27-32

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.[b] When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 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?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”