Saturday, August 31, 2013

Luke 5:27-32 - Levi's Party

Veronese (d. 1588), Banquet in the House of Le...
Veronese (d. 1588), Banquet in the House of Levi (Prof. Mortel)
The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. They tell the story of Jesus, His life and work. The third Gospel is called Luke, named after the author. Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. 

The passage before us today teaches us that commitment to Jesus is marked by joy! We meet a man who is a government contract worker. He is a customs agent, a Jew, and his name is Levi. Levi will not only respond to Jesus with belief and follow Him, but he will throw a party to introduce all his friends and co-workers to his new master, Jesus.
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 5:27-32 to tell people that Jesus is the life-changing hope they want to know and to teach believers that Jesus is the life-changing hope they want others to know (Luke 5:29-32).
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about knowing Jesus.
Pray and Read:  Luke 5:27-32

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus is the life-changing hope that you want to know (Luke 5:27-28).
2.   Jesus is the life-changing hope you want others to know (Luke 5:29-32).

Exposition:   Note well,


a.   This same story is found in Matthew 9:9-13 and Mark 2:13-17, and in those places, the name of the tax collector is Matthew. Our Levi is the Matthew who wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

b.   You’ve heard the old saying about death and taxes. In the ancient world, people were saddled with a number of taxes. Everyone paid them. There were
                     i.        Income taxes: 1%; Sales tax 2 ½ to 5%; luxury items 12%; Bridge tolls, Toll Roads, Harbor taxes, City taxes
                    ii.        Poll taxes (head tax): paid annually by everyone, slave or free, by men ages 14-65 & women ages 12-65.
                  iii.        Ground taxes: 10% grain, 20% wine & fruit, partly in kind, partly in cash.
                  iv.        Customs Duties: Import/Export taxes. When one crossed the border of a governor, or in this case, King Herod Antipas, one paid customs. One would be required to stop at the customs booth on the road, and the agent sitting inside collected customs duties on goods in transit near the border. If you were traveling across a border, you would have to unload and open all your bags to show what you had and then you paid your customs tax based on what you were transporting.  These officials were often insolent, because they had absolute power to tax you any amount they chose. That problem was compounded by the contract under which they worked – the government did not pay them for the privilege of collecting taxes. The tax collectors were expected to charge enough to cover their own expenses. They had no regulation or oversight as long as the government received their share. Because of this they often took advantage of people. Levi (Matthew) was this kind of tax agent.

c.   So here is Levi-Matthew, a tax agent in King Herod’s Roman Department of Revenue (Matt. 9:9). But he is not a regular tax collector. He is a customs official, the worst. The Jewish leaders said that it was impossible for one of these to repent. Levi was barred from worshiping God at Jewish synagogue. Because of the reputation of his line of work, his testimony would not be admissible in court. The Jews called people like Matthew “leeches.” 

d.   What is striking is that Levi name gives away that he was probably a Levite, from a special class, the Jewish family of priests. Therefore, he was even a greater traitor to his people than an ordinary Jew.

e.   Levi was from Capernaum, near where Jesus lived, and He and his family probably paid taxes to him and had known Levi for a long time.

f.    Levi must have been wealthy. He gave a great feast for Jesus (Matt. 9:9-13; Luke 5:29), but he left it all behind to follow Jesus.

g.   APPLICATION: A lot of things we believe are not true. They are myth. One of the myths we believe is that some people are too sinful for God to forgive. But look at Matthew-Levi. He betrayed his own people. He cheated them. He  lived sinfully. And Jesus knew him, had likely known him for a while. Jesus’ family had likely paid him taxes; therefore, Jesus’ family had likely been cheated by him. And Jesus loved him and wanted to save him.

h.   Many of us also believe the myth that people are not interested in Jesus and will not respond. BUT – Jesus saw into Levi’s lonely life in that tax booth and spoke to him. AND – Levi followed Jesus immediately. People try to hide their needs, but Jesus knows how to help the hurting.

i.     No one is outside God’s reach. It might look like your co-worker is out of reach of Jesus, but she is not. It may seem that your father is out of reach for Jesus, but he is not. It may seem impossible that your neighbors would ever submit to Jesus, but it is not. You may think you are too sinful for God to forgive you, but that is a lie. He died for you. He wants you to respond to Him in faith.

j.    Notice also that Matthew did not bargain with Jesus. He did not say, “Well, I will follow you if you cover my expenses, or if you will do something for me.” Matthew followed Jesus because Jesus is Lord. Jesus must be accepted on His own terms.
                    i.        Jesus is not a reformer. He is a transformer.
                  ii.        He doesn’t come to your life simply to help you live better. He comes to revolutionize it.
                iii.        He is not interested in entertaining you. He comes to take over.
                 iv.        He does not come to you to be a part of your life. He comes to be your life (Col 3:4).
                   v.        He does not come to augment your ego and strengthen your self-esteem. He comes to crucify your sinful self and teach you replace your mess of a life with His Christ Life.
                 vi.        He comes to lead. He comes to rule. He comes to reign. In surrender to Him lies true joy.


a.   Jesus, having called Levi (viz., Matthew, Matt 9:9) to be a disciple, accepted an invitation for a banquet that Levi gave for his former colleagues. Levi must have been financially successful to afford a great banquet. That Levi should respond to Jesus’ invitation with a banquet is not surprising since repaying honor with honor was an important part of social life in the ancient world. He wants to introduce his friends and former colleagues to Jesus. Table fellowship indicated intimate relationships among those sharing it, and it was natural for a well-to-do person to invite his colleagues and employees to a feast.

b.   APPLICATION: Levi immediately opened his home to introduce his friends and co-workers to Mr. Good News Himself, for them to meet Jesus. Matthew-Levi  invited family, friends, employees, and neighbors to his house for a meal in order to introduce them to Jesus. We can do the same thing today. Are you opening your life to those in your circle of influence so that they can meet Jesus?

c.   One of the myths we believe is that “I am not trained to tell people about Jesus. It is too hard.” BUT – Levi used what he had to introduce other to Jesus: his home, his food, and his relationships. AND - He did not forget old friends, neighbors, sinners, co-workers.

d.   Luke 5:30-32Why eat with sinners and tax collectors? Immediately the Pharisees, the religious leaders, criticize Levi and Jesus. First, these religious guys say that Jesus is associating with the wrong kind of people (Luke 5:30). They should not eat and drink with social outcasts. The Pharisees had special rules about eating and did not like to eat with less scrupulous people like tax gatherers and sinners, or even common Jews. Why? They said it was because they could not be sure the food was ceremonially clean or if it had been properly tithed.[1] The translation is that they honestly felt like they were better than Levi and his friends.[2]

e.   Jesus has an answer for them, “Doctor look out for the sick, right?” so his place was with the sinners he had come to save. He as host, in a prophetic picture of the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb, invites sinners to eat with him (Luke 5:31-32). The righteous, i.e., the self-righteous, do not need a doctor (or don’t think they do anyway). Sinners who recognize their desperate need of repentance and spiritual healing are the people Jesus wants.[3]

f.    APPLICATION: Many Christians have been criticized for the very thing Jesus was attacked for: associating with the wrong kind of people. The problem is that while we are to separate from evil, we are also to call sinners to repentance. Jesus’ way of doing this was not to shout at sinners from a distance, but spend time with them. Because we cannot tell what another person’s motives are, we must not criticize fellow believers just for associating with them.

g.   APPLICATION: Another myth we believe is that “I will be criticized or embarrassed if people do not respond.” BUT – Levi was so happy about being a follower of Jesus that he had a party and invited everyone, especially those who needed Jesus. AND – He was criticized BUT . . .

                     i.        Jesus was the focus of the party. Sinners confessed their sins and received forgiveness. New believers met others followers of Jesus and were established in their faith. Matthew grew spiritually. The critics were silenced.

i.     Is God calling you to do what Levi did, to introduce those with whom you have a relationship to Jesus? Here’s how you can do what Levi did, and invite people to your home:
                     i.        Look around and identify your friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow students, and family who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord. Write their names down.
                    ii.        Look up and pray every day for each person you have listed.
                  iii.        Look out for opportunities to build your relationship with these people.
                  iv.        Look forward to your Party. Invite every person on your list. Prepare your own 3 minute story of how you came to know Jesus as Lord. Have your Party and invite them to follow Jesus!
                   v.        Look after those who gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Help them grow in their faith. Invite them to church. Give them a Bible and show them how you talk to God.

Will you take a step to trust Jesus?
Will you take a step to introduce your friends to Jesus?

[1] Dining at the home of a Pharisee meant you even had to take off your clothes and put on his ritually clean garments to eat with him.
[2] The use of “were complaining” (egongyzon) is significant because in the LXX it is used to describe the murmuring of Israel in the Wilderness (Exod. 15:24; 16:7-12; 17:3; Num 11:1; 14:2, 27-29, 36; 16:11, 14; 17:5, 10) and of Israel’s rebellion against God (Psalm 59:15; 106:25; 1 Cor 10:10). The point? In opposing the faithful Son of God, the Pharisees and scribes are following the rebellious ways of their ancestors (Luke 15:2; 19:7).
[3] This passage is parallel to the Zaccheus story at the end of Jesus’ ministry where Jesus says, “The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

This sermon was preached at Fusion Church, July 28, 2013, to kick off the MyHope with Billy Graham emphasis for November 2013.