Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Jesus, Friend of Sinners.

“Behold, a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and especially wicked sinners.” (Matthew 11:19).

An Inside look at Levi Matthew’s Banquet for Jesus. Please read the story of Matthew’s party in Matthew 9:10-13, Mark 2:15-17, and Luke 5:29-32. Also refer to Luke 15:1-2 and 19:1-7.


“That Levi sure knows how to throw a party, doesn’t he? And what do you think of his friend Jesus? He can really tell a story.” 

“Yeah, I love the one about the lost sheep and the good shepherd. I must admit, there are times when I feel like that lost sheep. Sometimes I feel the need to be rescued, just like in the story.”

“I really like his story about the son who wasted his inheritance and his father forgave him and then threw a big feast for him. It would be wonderful if somewhere there was a father like that. My father beat me and then threw me out of the house.” 

“Actually, Jesus seems like the kind of person who would do something like that father in the story. Remember when Julia was caught by the Pharisees, and Jesus said that he didn’t condemn her, and to go and sin no more?” 

“Speaking of the Pharisees, why are they staring and muttering outside Levi’s front door?”

“Speaking of feeling condemned, they are experts at heaping on the guilt.”

“I love the fact that Levi has made this rabbi Jesus the guest of honor. He deserves it. He doesn’t seem to care about his reputation with all those super-religious people. He’s not afraid to accept us and just be our friend.”

“Yeah. Somehow he doesn’t make me feel ashamed. And yet, I think he knows deep down that we can do better than this, that we need a good shepherd. He seems to believe in us despite our way of life. I’m tempted to leave all this behind and follow him for a while and see what happens.” 


“I haven’t had this much fun in ages, Jacob! Look at this strange collection of people, though. Looking around, I guess we’re all renegades of one kind or another. No wonder those Pharisees outside the door are so indignant. We aren’t a part of their religious club.”

“But I don’t understand why the Pharisees would lump us in with these other sinners like those prostitutes and tax collectors. Just because we don’t follow every little detail of the Law, we’re called sinners? Okay, so maybe I don’t bother ritually washing my hands before a meal. Big deal.”

“Yeah, they nailed me a couple of weeks ago because I walked a little too far on the Sabbath! So what? That makes me a sinner?”

“Levi’s guest of honor seems like a whole different kind of rabbi than those Pharisees. He has not said one condemning word the whole night. In the eyes of the Law, I’m treated like a scoundrel. But with Jesus, I’m treated like a long-lost friend.”

“Did you hear that the Pharisees yelled at Jesus because he healed someone on the Sabbath? They said he was doing the work of a doctor, so he broke the Law!”

“Yeah, I heard he was a little looser on some of those finer details of the Law. He said he considered people more important than the religious laws.”

“I guess Jesus really gave the Pharisees an earful the other day. I think this is what he told them right to their faces, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, like justice and mercy and faith! Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel in the  process!'”

“I love that, because it hits the Pharisees between the eyes, and because it’s true! I’ve been a rebel all my life, but this rabbi Jesus just may be the Teacher I’ve been waiting for. Here’s a man who actually knows what’s really important!”


“Can you believe this? Am I actually seeing this right now? Look at this supposed rabbi Jesus – He is eating with those traitors the tax collectors and all  their nasty friends! And he’s telling stories and drinking wine with all those loose women in there! And then there are all those others who don’t follow the Law. I wouldn’t go into Levi’s house right now if you paid me.”

“Jesus doesn’t seem to care about his reputation, does he? It doesn’t seem to matter to him that he’s the talk of the Temple! And some people call him a prophet? He shouldn’t be in there. This is a scandal, an outrage!”

“Isaac, go and get Jesus’ attention and have him come out here and explain himself. Righteous Jews just don’t do this sort of thing!” 

“Okay, now, Jesus, here we find you eating and drinking, even welcoming all kinds of sinners and outcasts. You are tarnishing the name of God and His Law, and everything we believe in. You have made yourself unclean just to be with these sinners? How can you in good conscience do this sort of thing?”


“I am offending your religious sensibilities? I am detracting from everything you believe in? Maybe that’s the problem, Josephus. You have left a big hole in your belief system. And only mercy will fill it. Don’t you remember the great prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The Lord would rather have us show mercy than offer sacrifices! You seem to have forgotten that. I have come to show the Father’s love, to tell these lost sheep that they can start following me and be forgiven. How can they know the Father’s mercy unless someone tells them and shows the way? I want to accept them as friends. Yet you want to remain their enemies. They are made in God’s image, just like you. They deserve the good news that God in heaven believes in them and will help them live a whole new life.” 


“Mercy? They don’t deserve mercy! They don’t follow the Law! They lead an impure life! Only we deserve God’s mercy because we follow the Law explicitly, down to the last detail!”


“But you haven’t followed all the Law! You have forgotten about mercy!”


“Okay, listen up people! Time to stop counting your money! I now call this after-dinner meeting of the Fraternal Order of Tax Collectors to order! Our special guest tonight is our host, Mr. Levi Matthew. He has quite the tale to tell. I don’t know if I believe it or not, but let’s give him a good hearing. Discussion will follow over cocktails. Okay, Levi, what have you got to tell us? We’re all ears.” 

“Thank you, Zacchaeus. I can understand you being a bit skeptical, but hear me out. It all started when this rabbi came by my office one day, and we had a nice conversation. I was shocked, of course, because normally no one would talk to us. We are called everything from traitors to thieves to public sinners who are unclean. We especially don’t have any religious people to talk with. Well, the very next day this same rabbi came to my office again. By this time I knew he was a wandering rabbi named Jesus. And this time he looked at me squarely in the eyes and said, “Matthew, I see a lot of good in you. How about if you leave all this and follow me with my other friends here. We’d love to have you.” Well, I wasn’t so sure the others would be glad to have me, but Jesus seemed like the kind of person I could follow. So I said Yes! I may be leaving a lot behind, but I’m getting so much more! To celebrate I made a big feast at my house, and I invited all you and other friends who were willing to come, including of course this rabbi Jesus and his followers. And brothers, aren’t we having the best time? Have you had a chance to talk with Jesus yet? He tells good stories and speaks the truth. Jesus was right in the middle of the party the whole time, wasn’t he? When he spoke, everyone seemed to drop their conversation and listen to him. And we hung on his every word. With God’s help, I will follow Jesus for as long as he’ll have me. I think this was the best decision I ever made.”

“Well, Levi Matthew, we’re sorry to see you go. We heard during the party that Jesus is actually going through Jericho tomorrow, so it looks like we can see for ourselves what more he has to say. Let’s all meet at the big sycamore tree in the middle of town. Okay, then. Meeting adjourned. 

‘Thank you, Zacchaeus. Well see you tomorrow.”