13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:13-17)
John Calvin abridged: We are reminded that the grace of Christ does not help us unless when we are conscious of our sins and groaning under their load, we come to Him with humility. There is encouragement here that Christ will not reject sinners. He calls those for whom he descended from his heavenly glory. Yet, we must also be careful to repent. For we are not pardoned in order to cherish our sins, but to live a devout and holy life. He reconciles us to the Father with the condition that being redeemed by his blood we may present ourselves true sacrifices.
(Ancient icon of Matthew)
Thoughts: It is perhaps, a lot more comfortable for Christians to seek fellowship with other like-minded Christians than to rub elbows with the "sinners." But our Lord, whom we follow, gave us an example of pursuing sinners. He was much less concerned with his reputation than with caring for those who were spiritually hurting. Too often we are like the lifeguard who will not jump into the water to save someone. We are like the salt (of the world) that gets stuck in the salt shaker. Jesus jumped into this world with both feet. He was fearless- and his love for God overcame his fear of others.
In this political primary season- candidates get criticized no matter what they say or do. I do not envy the public servants of our day. We gossip without restraint- and have not learned to control our blogs (as if God doesn't care about blogs- but only talk). For the politicians who are really trying to help us all- remember Jesus- who was publically criticized so much. But also remember Jesus really tried to please God first. It is not the people whom we are called to please- it is the people whom we are called to help with God's grace and strength.
Prayer: Help me, as a sinner, Lord, to always welcome you to my house. Help me as a follower, Lord, to follow you into the places where people need to be rescued. But keep me from losing my integrity and faith as I go.