How Low will Jesus Go for Siners? (Luke 5:27-33). This was an evangelistic dinner celebrating Matthew Levi’s new life, given in honor of Jesus. Who did he invite? Religious people? No, that would not be any fun and they wouldn’t come anyway. He gathered everyone in his world made up of tax collectors and others. OTHERS? Matthew 9:10 says “sinners.” What a crowd! It was all the riffraff and low-lives of the area – thieves, thugs, extortionist, larcenist, drunks, prostitutes, outcasts, and rejects from everywhere. These were personally dining with the Son of God. That’s Jesus’ kind of crowd. This is who I came to be with.


How Low will Jesus Go for Sinners? (Luke 5:27-33)

How Low will Jesus Go for Sinners? video audio (Luke 5:27-33)

Sermon video


How Low will Jesus Go for Sinners? (Luke 5:27-33)

Scriptures: Luke 5:31-32; Romans 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 5:27; Luke 5:28; Luke 6:27; Luke 5:29; Luke 5:30; Luke 5:31-32

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.”

I guess I could simply say amen and we all go home. You don’t need me to explain that passage to you. It’s clear. But, as you know, I’m not going to do that. This passage is so clear, yet so profound. It contains one of the most defining statements Jesus ever made. If you grasp the statement, you grasp the uniqueness of Christianity and the purpose of his church.

Luke 5:31-32 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.”

Those two sentences are a commentary. They tell us WHY the prophets spoke of Christ’s coming for thousands of years, WHY he was announced by archangel Gabriel, of the Holy Spirit conceived in the womb of a virgin, WHY born in a stable, WHY he lived, WHY he died, WHY he resurrected from the dead, WHY he ascended, and WHY he sits at the right hand of God interceding today. Why? Call sinners TO repentance.

Jesus came to save sinners SO THEY WOULD REPENT. Notice the wording – “sinners TO repentance.” We don’t repent and then become saved. He calls. Then we repent by aligning our lives in accordance with God’s direction to stop sinning. Here is the point. We are all works in progress. We’ll label people hypocrites when every one of us is a work in progress. It’s when I point out the sins of others I get myself in trouble. It’s then Jesus can’t help me. I don’t need Jesus the doctor. I think I’m healthy enough. I think I’m righteous enough proven by my pointing out other’s sins.

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, NO, NOT ONE:

The PhD’s and Pharisees thought they were righteous and could point out the sins of others. Jesus said he couldn’t help them. The Christian faith, church, even Jesus is not for people who believe they are righteous. It’s for people who know they are not. Church is for sin sick sinners. Church is not a club for the righteous. It’s a hospital for the sin sick. When we pass a church, we should be able to say, “There’s a bunch of sinners.” See, how foreign that is to our thinking?

1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves FULL ACCEPTANCE: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — OF WHOM I AM THE WORST.

What kind of acceptance does this saying deserve? Realizing we are sinners is actually a sign of maturity. Apostle Paul was in his 60’s, served the Lord for much of his life, preached Jesus all over the world, began churches, had already written much of the New testament, yet, by his own admission, he is the worst sinner who ever lived. Paul said, “I AM the worst,” not “I was the worst.” Peter told Jesus, “Get out of my boat. I’m a sinful man.” Jesus said, “Follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.” The heart and attitude Jesus came for, loves, can help, work with, and save is one who knows he is a sinner, not plays like he is not BY JUDGING OTHERS.

The more mature a church congregation becomes, the more it recognizes its sinfulness, not eliteness It’s then Jesus can truly do something in that church. People feel and are doctored, not judged.

We’ve all heard someone say something like, “That person goes to church, but look at their life. They’re a sinner.” Yes, true, but that’s what church is about. Instead of talking about the “sinner” and agreeing with the person making the statement, we need to learn today’s lesson. We need to learn how to explain why Jesus came and what a church is supposed to be about. Don’t see people trying as hypocrites. See them as works in progress exactly like you are. Don’t be a Pharisee.

We’ve observed a very interesting progression in chapter 5. Jesus called smelly, uneducated fishermen to follow him, not the religiously educated PhD’s and Pharisees (5:1-11). He cleansed (not healed) a leper (5:12-16). He forgave and restored a paralytic while, at the same time, assaulting the PhD’s and Pharisees thinking. Now Luke leads us to a tax collector named Matthew Levi (Mat 9:9). Luke is showing us the error of Judaism and any religious work including “Christianity” who rejects the very ones Jesus came to save. Today we see HOW LOW JESUS WILL GO into the dregs of humanity to save someone.

Though we all have an attitude of disdain toward the IRS, it is nothing compared to the stigma tax collectors had in that day. Until we understand that stigma, we miss why the PhD’s and Pharisees were so shocked if a rabbi simply spoke to a tax collector.

Luke 5:27 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

After what? From where did Jesus go out? Jesus had gone out from the house where he forgave and restored the paralytic. The PhD’s and Pharisees had converged on Jesus in an obvious setup to indict Jesus. After Jesus forgave and restored the paralytic, Jesus went out. He’sreally going to rub their noses in it. “You think that was bad, watch this.”

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi. Tax collectors (KJV – publicans) were hated and despised by everyone, not only Jews. You would have hated them too. The reason is they were dishonest and cruel people. They were literally the low-life scum of humanity. Perhaps today think of a molester, or a man who physically and mentally abuses his wife and children, or a rapist. Then put the tax collector beneath them. They were the lowest of the low.

Rome ruled the world and occupied Israel and, of course, taxed the people. Every region, i.e. Judah and Galilee, was given an amount of tax to be paid and the governor, Herod, was responsible for collecting and paying that tax to Rome. To insure he received the money to pay Rome, the governor sold tax franchises. Those purchasing a franchise were given legal authority to collect taxes – take money from the Jews and give it to the gentile infidels in Rome. They were traitors of the lowest level who sold their birthright. They sold out their Jewish heritage for money, dishonored their nation, dishonored their family, disowned their friends, and were society’s worst of the worse outcasts.

The tax collectors abused their authority by extortion, demanding more than necessary (Luk 3:13). They kept all extra money they could acquire. It was a mafia-like arm twisting operation. If you did not pay, the tax collector could legally send thugs to “encourage” you to pay by breaking your fingers, legs, etc. They had authority to stop people anyplace, anytime, search their goods, tax them on the spot, and harm people if they didn’t pay.

Matthew Levi ran that type operation. He probably took bribes from the rich, exploited the poor, was guilty of extortion, larceny, assault and battery, you name it. See, you would hate Matthew Levi too. Tax collectors were barred from any synagogue. They were marked unclean. Anyone getting around them was considered defiled. They could never enter the temple to sacrifice. They were disqualified from the Jewish court system to witness or bring litigations. The tax collectors were considered unforgivable, rejected, abandoned, and doomed to hell by God and everyone else.

How low will Jesus go? He will go to the lowest of the low. He will go to the most condemned of the condemned. The last person the PhD’s and Pharisees thought Jesus would ever befriend was a tax collector let alone call him to be a disciple and apostle.

Levi was sitting at his tax booth. The KJV says, sitting at the receipt of custom meaning he and his thugs could stop anyone passing by, inspect their belongings, and tax them on the spot (or break their legs). Matthew Levi was hated, heartless, cutthroat, and brutal. He most likely was the most hated despised man in Capernaum, but Jesus went out and saw him. Jesus went out from the PhD’s and Pharisees who thought they were the righteous and went to the lowest of the low. Levi might not have been looking for God, but God was looking for Levi. He was looking for you too.

Jesus said follow me. “You’re just the kind of guy I’m looking for to be an apostle. You’re a perfect fit. You’re exactly what I need.” Have you ever thought “what was Jesus thinking” when he called you? I have. I thought, “Seriously? Really? You want me to do what?” What does he want you to do?

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector. The word saw is theaomai {theh-ah’-om-ahee}. It’s a primary active verb meaning to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate; to view, take a view of; in the sense of visiting, meeting with a person; to learn by looking, to see with the eyes, to perceive. Jesus didn’t just walk up not knowing who Matthew Levi was. There had been some interaction. It wasn’t a one time glance. They were not total strangers. Surely Jesus passed by Matthew Levi’s boot often. I believe Jesus began dealing with Matthew Levi’s heart exactly as he did, or is, your and my heart.

Luke 5:28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

That’s a dramatic break. Judy and I did that. We left everything to follow the Lord. We had a good life. I wasn’t an extortionist, but we made good money and both had good jobs. One day Jesus saw me. I’ve followed ever since. I followed him here. Where have you followed Jesus? I don’t mean you need to become a preacher, but have you left anything and followed him? To many, “following Jesus” is dependent on if they have anything else they would rather do, anyplace else they would rather go, and if they wake up in time and feel like it. How about you? If you graded yourself, where do you show up in “left everything and followed him”? Matthew Levi’s burning his bridges leaving everything was faith proof of a true act of salvation. It’s a picture of how Jesus calls sinner TO repentance.

We know this rattled and upset the religious PhD’s and Pharisees, but do you think it rattled the other disciples? I wonder what Simon Peter had to say about Matthew Levi’s call? Can you imagine! What about James and John the sons of thunder? What did they have to say about having to associate with someone they most likely hated? How would you like it if you were forced to be around the person in your life you hate the most? But, hasn’t Jesus said,

Luke 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Listen, they didn’t like being around Matthew Levi any more than you would like being around the person you hate most. So, Matthew Levi helped out the situation.

Luke 5:29 Then Levi held A GREAT BANQUET FOR JESUS at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.

It was for Jesus, but the disciples were there. You can be certain Simon, Andrew, James, and John had never ever been to a “shindig” like this – A GREAT BANQUET. If Levi gave a great banquet FOR Jesus at his house, Levi must have had a great house. Matthew Levi was obviously wealthy.

This was an evangelistic dinner celebrating Matthew Levi’s new life, given in honor of Jesus. Who did he invite? Religious people? No, that would not be any fun and they wouldn’t come anyway. He gathered everyone in his world made up of tax collectors and others. OTHERS?? Matthew 9:10 says “sinners.” What a crowd! It was all the riffraff and low-lives of the area – thieves, thugs, extortionist, larcenist, drunks, prostitutes, outcasts, and rejects from everywhere. These were personally dining with the Son of God. That’s Jesus’ kind of crowd. This is who I came to be with.

(Amp) Luke 5:29 And Levi (Matthew) made a great banquet for Him in his own house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others who were RECLINING [at the table] with them.

There are several of these reclining scenes in Luke. They are each profound and tell us much about Jesus. The round table was maybe a foot high and everyone stretched out around it with feet away from the table. They didn’t inhale their food in ten minutes as we do today. They took time – hours – and made relationships. But, there’s your Lord and Savior reclining, stretched out, comfortably connecting with the scum of the scum. Imagine what the conversations around the table were about. “How’s your prostitution business and escort service going?” “You extorted WHO this week?” “You had to break WHO’S leg?” “You were bribed by WHO for how much?”

Isn’t it amazing how the longer you are a Christian, you lose connection with the very people you are to reach. We become insulated and isolated. I understand how that’s good. Many Christians would revert back. They simply aren’t strong enough to handle the pressure and temptation, but it’s also sad. Some of us would, but if we did, our faces would end up on Facebook and being the negative talk of the town. It would sort of go like this:

Luke 5:30 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’?”

The word for complained is gogguzo {gong-good’-zo} meaning to murmur, mutter, grumble, say anything against in a low tone; of those who confer secretly together. Notice, they didn’t complain to Jesus. They secretly murmured to his disciples. They don’t come to me. They come to you to talk about me in an attempt to get you away from me.

A woman once told another preacher she went to church here and he said, “I’m sorry. You do know what he believes don’t you…” She said it didn’t affect her, but she no longer attends here. I was approached by someone once putting down my pastor. I ate his lunch and told him he didn’t know my pastor and had no right to talk about him. He apologized. What do you do when questioned about me or Life Gate? Do you know what to say?

The PhD’s and Pharisees are learning Jesus had no intention to keep their laws and it infuriated them. They were now attempting to turn Jesus’ disciples against him. “How could a rabbi actually party at all, but with such sin-sick low lives…? A truly righteous rabbi would never associate with such sin sick people.” Jesus heard them.

Luke 5:31-32 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.”

By the PhD’s and Pharisees own admission these people were the sickest of the sick. Jesus gave his condemners an in-your-face assault as to how they did not care about people. Hear the sarcasm in Jesus’ words. “I have not come to call the RIGHTEOUS…” “You’re so Righteous you don’t need God!” “You’re so spiritually healthy! Just look at you! Yeah, look at your family. Look at your finances. Look at your children. You certainly have room to talk judge other people.” In reality, the condemners were and are the most unrighteous of all. Sadly, they were the sickest of all and Jesus couldn’t help them.

God can’t save a person who doesn’t realize they are a sinner. He can’t help that person. He can’t help you or me until we realize we need a doctor. It’s then I can be saved. Heaven’s not full of people who thought they were healthy enough or good enough. Heaven is full of sinners called by Jesus who were all works in progress. Jesus still calls sinners TO repentance. How about you? How low will Jesus go? Low enough to get me! He’ll come to your low place and get you too. Jesus want to help us all and heal us all, but before he can, we must recognize and admit we are sinners. Let’s do that right now.

Other Related Sermons:

Apostle Matthew the Publican and Apostle Thomas the Doubter – video audio notes Luke 6:12-16

I SEE GRACE pt 2 – Easter sermon video audio notes

Easter Nonsense – sermon video audio notes

Also see:

Sermons Change The World

Life Gate Church sermons by Delbert Young