Luke 5: 27 – 32
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, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 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.”
Not only do religious people not need a person like Jesus, they are likely to respond poorly to him. When you know who you are and you believe you have got God right, then you may well not appreciate or actually listen to someone who comes along radically proposing a new way of walking and welcoming all the rejects from your religious activities (He who has ears to hear, let him hear). Instead you could well see him as a threat, get busy organizing resistance to him and maybe even become really hostile. Spiritual innovators, those shining with a new truth, have often been persecuted, just as the prophets of old were by God’s chosen people.
Followers of Jesus follow his example and work on being compassionate and non-judgemental. They are more likely to accept wounded and sinful people into their loving midst, giving them the support to find another way. When you see people with God’s forgiving and loving eyes, welcoming them and befriending them is natural. Let us be aware of our own tendencies to judge and ask our Abba for the grace to always see people as he sees them. For when we see someone who offends us through the lens of what they have done, we are on the edge of slipping out of God’s grace, even though judgement seems like the natural response.
Noon Day Prayers Question
There is God’s way and then there is the highway. The highway to hell, so to speak, is filled with well-intentioned people who yet agree with each other on shunning undesirables, who create clubs for themselves that do not include the marginalized. Even within these clubs there are those everyone esteems and those most avoid. Our Abba has been so merciful with each one of us, welcoming us into his open arms whenever we remember to turn back towards him. He longs to have us love each other as Jesus has loved us, that justice and mercy might prevail amongst us and flow out from us into our hurting world. Ask yourself now, in front of your loving Abba, are you treating his marginalized children the way he would have you treat them? Are you? Be open to being prompted to what you might begin to do differently this Lent.
Luke 5: 33 – 39
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
Have you ever been around a contemporary spiritual teacher? If you have, you may well have noticed that life around the teacher is a party as people are so happy with how they are changing, the peace and freedom they are discovering and they hang on every word that is said. Just so with Jesus, life around him was a party as he was healing and freeing people and befriending the social outcasts of his day. He was being invited out for dinner and all his friends came along. There was not much fasting going on while he was walking this earth. The problem for the religious in-crowd of his day was that he was partying with the wrong people.
The second parable continues with the same point, the wineskins are the disciples.* Jesus was in the process of choosing his disciples and he was certainly selecting people the Pharisees would not choose. And these disciples were behaving poorly early on from a Pharisaical point of view as they were partying with sinners and in fact were sinners themselves. The New wineskins are his previously uneducated disciples and the old wineskins are those who have already been educated and are following other teachers. Followers of another teacher will rarely drop their teacher and go to a new one, in fact it is generally discouraged. So what does this mean for us today?
Followers of Jesus today run into Pharisees in their own churches as they, like Jesus, question established ways of doing things and are inspired to do new things, new things that upset the old ways. There are those who are hung up on having their traditions followed faithfully and those who are going out to find Abba’s children wherever they are, shining with compassion and mercy as they go. Jesus was not part of any club, he was full of the Spirit and doing as he felt led. Those who followed him were not part of the religious establishment of his day but they were learning how to find God with him in a new way.
Followers of Jesus need to be clear in their own lives about the differences between pharisaical religiosity and following Jesus. Being who you are and shining with the love we share is our calling as we walk and God only knows where this will lead us, who will be touched and how. Think on these things…
*see http://www.bethimmanuel.org/articles/new-wine-and-old-wineskins-parable-luke-536-39-re-examined for this Jewish interpretation based in a Jewish understanding of the context.