This summer has FLOWN by! Are there really only a few weeks left before a new school year starts?? We have covered a lot of different topics in our Greek IV summer devotionals over the past few weeks - hope, family, repentance, and anxiety just to name a few. What does all of this mean for us as we prepare to head back to campus though? How do we incorporate the things we’ve learned about our faith into our lives in our Greek chapters? How do we be Greek AND Christian?
Today we are going to look at a passage that may seem very familiar depending on how long you’ve been involved in Greek IV. We will be taking a look at a passage in Luke 5. At this point in scripture, Jesus is at the beginning of his ministry. He has just begun calling disciples to join him in ministry and has started teaching to crowds and healing people from various illnesses. Jesus is in the midst of teaching a crowd as our story picks up.
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.”
Questions to Consider
- Why does Levi leave everything to follow Jesus? Did Levi have to leave everything to follow Jesus?
- Why do the Pharisees care about who Jesus eats with?
- Why does Jesus attend this party?
- Who are the “righteous”? Who are the “sinners”?
Does anyone else feel like this scene would be right at home as part of a dramatic primetime drama on the CW or HBO Max?
Levi is a tax collector, which meant that he was most likely fairly wealthy. However, he was probably also hated for his wealth. Tax collectors at this time were Jewish people that worked for the Roman government (aka the government that was ruling over them and telling them how to live). On top of that, many tax collectors were known to charge extra so they could skim money off the top of the sum they sent to Rome. When Jesus calls Levi to follow him, Levi leaves his life of wealth and privilege behind so that he can have a new life following Jesus. What?
If that wasn’t dramatic enough, then we have Levi’s party. Levi is so honored and excited to follow Jesus that he throws a party and invites all the people he knows from his social circle - other tax collectors and sinners. Levi leaves his old life behind, but he doesn’t leave the people he knew behind with it. He invites his friends to celebrate his new life with him and to meet Jesus for themselves!
In the midst of this great celebration, we also see Pharisees. The Pharisees are outside of the party looking in. Anyone else sensing a strange resemblance to Gossip Girl eerily watching the ‘it’ crowd from the outside? That’s so awkward! Why would they do this? We find out that the Pharisees don’t understand why someone like Jesus, holy and righteous, would be at a party with people that are the complete opposite.
This brings me to the other person in the story. Jesus. Why does Jesus attend this party? Jesus is different from both the sinners that Levi invites to the party and the Pharisees on the outside of the party. Unlike the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus is holy and righteous, as the Pharisees claim to be. Yet, unlike the Pharisees, he is in the middle of Levi’s party hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus maintains his righteousness and connection to God while also spending time with people that have no connection to God.
This is what it means to be both Greek AND Christian. It means to live in the tension of following the Lord and his commands while continuing to spend time with our brothers and sisters wherever they’re at. We might tend to be more like the tax collectors - assimilating to the culture of sin around us - or more like the Pharisees - alienating ourselves from those that aren’t following God.
No matter which side you are more like though, Jesus makes it clear that we all fall short of righteousness; all of us are sick and in need of a savior.
Thankfully though, God is a gracious and merciful God. Jesus lived the life that we could not live, died the death that we deserve, paid the price for all our sins, and rose again. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are given the grace to grow to live like him wherever we are starting from.
As you prepare to head to campus, whether you tend to be more like the Pharisees or more like the tax collectors, God has an invitation for you - to grow in compassion or grow in conviction. He invites you to try to live in the tension like Jesus, and he has mercy and grace for you when you fall short. This is what it means to be both Greek AND Christian.