John T. Willis

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jesus Disciples Levi, leading to Two Conflicts--Luke 5:27-39

After relating the accounts of Jesus cleansing a leper and healing a paralytic, Luke relates the account of Jesus making Levi his disciple, which led to two conflicts between Jesus and his opponents. This appears in Luke 5:27-39, and falls into two paragraphs.

I. Jesus makes Levi his disciple, which leads to a conflict about eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. Luke 5:27-32.
a. After healing the paralytic in a house [5:19], Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax booth and told him, "Follow me." Levi got up, left everything, and followed Jesus. Matthew 9:9 calls this individual Matthew. First century CE=AD Palestinian Jews often had two names: one Semitic and one Greek. This probably explains why this person is called both Levi and Matthew. Luke does not tell the hearer or reader where this occurred. The overall context suggests this was somewhere in Galilee, possibly Capernaum, but we do not know with certainty. Levi was an agent at work for a chief toll-collector seated at his post. Levi left everything--cf. 5:11; 14:33. Levi left his occupation to assume another occupation, that is, to follow Jesus. 5:27-28.
b. Upon following Jesus, Levi gave a sumptuous banquet in the honor of Jesus at Levi's house. There was a large crowd of tax-collectors and other people sitting at table. 5:29.
c. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" There have always been people who are looking for opportunities to criticize other people. What a history the Church of Christ has had about this. Many of us have established a reputation for criticizing other people. When we do this, we are putting ourselves in the shoes of the Pharisees and their scribes. Jesus strongly opposes such a mindset. 5:30.
d. Jesus responds by emphasizing his purpose [and by following Jesus' example, our purpose] is to love, encourage, support, transform, change sinful people. If a person is well [If a person has no sins], he or she needs no physician [does not need Jesus or any of Jesus' followers]. Only those who are sick desire to be with Jesus and Jesus' followers. Jesus has come to planet earth to call sinners to repentance, because the righteous have no need of repentance. Is there anyone on earth who does not need repentance because he or she is sinless? 5:31-32.

II. The Pharisees and their Scribes rebuke Jesus for teaching his followers not to fast. Luke 5:33-39.
a. When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and their scribes for denouncing Jesus' followers for eating and drinking toll collectors and sinners, the Pharisees and their scribes responded to Jesus by rebuking Jesus' followers for eating and drinking instead of praying and fasting. The Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist fast and pray, but Jesus' followers eat and drink. In the Hebrew Bible, fasting meant abstaining from food and drink (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9) often connected with wearing sackcloth and ashes (Daniel 9:3), symbols of expiation of sins (Leviticus 16:29-31), penitence (1 Kings 21:27; Joel 1:14; 2:15-27; Isaiah
58:1-9), and mourning (Esther 4:3). 5:33.
b. Jesus replied that fasting was incompatible or inappropriate while the bridegroom [in this context, Jesus] is present and the wedding guests are celebrating his presence. Fasting expresses gloom and sorrow, not joy. Jesus came on earth and inaugurated a new period of God's kingdom, so this was a time of joy, not of sorrow and mourning. So, fasting would be inappropriate in this context. When Jesus died on the cross, this was a time of fasting, but not during his lifetime. On some occasions, fasting is compelling; on other occasions, fasting is inappropriate or incompatible. 5:34-35.
c. Then Jesus added a parable: One cannot successfully sew a piece of new garment on an old garment. The new piece does not match the old garment. No one puts new wine into old wineskins. This would destroy the wineskins. New wine must be put into new wineskins. No one after drinking old wine desire new wine, but says, the old is good. The Pharisees and their scribes were clinging to the old and closed their minds to Jesus' message about the new life of salvation. Many of us cling to old beliefs, old views, old traditions and refuse to open our hearts to new truths which God reveals in his revealed word which we had not seen or perceived or understood. This is a powerful, incisive message to all who will accept it. 5:36-39.

Share YOUR understandings and insights and perceptions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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