27After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” 33And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ ”
Jesus calls and the lost hear Him. Levi (Matthew) is a hated tax collector. They were hated because they were largely dishonest. The tax collection system in Roman was a bit odd. The tax collectors paid the tax for the entire region and then collected that money back from the people. The tax collector was the one who set the amount of tax you owed and it could be any amount he desired. Most of the tax collectors gathered far more than the people owed, thus making themselves wealthy. This is the man Jesus calls.
Of course, the Pharisees find this to be a cause for great complaint which Jesus uses as a teachable moment; just as a well person doesn’t need a doctor, neither do the righteous need a Savior. The Pharisees considered themselves nothing if not righteous – a fact about which they were terribly wrong – but Jesus uses their arrogance to speak truth into their lives using the object lesson of the wine skin. The Pharisees didn’t get it.
Jesus uses of the picture of the Bridegroom to allude to His eventual removal from the scene. He is here to fulfill a purpose and already in this early part of His ministry He is making that point although probably no one in the room understood. But we are reading this story as history and know His purpose. This passage embodies Jesus’ entire ministry. In it He addresses the forgiveness of sins, the ministry to the outcasts, and the controversy with the religious establishment. The Book of Luke is focused around these topics.
For me, the words that jump from this text are “Follow Me.” That invitation to the soul so desperately in need of a Savior is a balm to the spirit. I pray that you hear those words in your own heart every single day and that the Spirit moves you to do just that – follow the Great Healer for only He has what we absolutely need.