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The Joy of Repentance

Luke 5:29-32
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 those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (NIVUK)

Jesus had commanded a corrupt tax collector to leave his old life and become His disciple.  Levi's immediate obedience was evidence of his repentance (Luke 5:27-28).  That is, he changed his thinking and therefore his actions.  He left everything associated with his old way of life.  Perhaps his heart had been troubled for some time.  Perhaps he had been waiting for a way out, but he was trapped in a corrupt system from which he could not escape.  If he did, where would he go to?  But when Jesus called him, he responded with joy - released from a rich but empty way of life (1 Peter 1:18).

Such joy had to be shared.  Levi invited many former colleagues, and other social outcasts, to a lavish banquet so that they could meet Jesus too.  The party was to honour Jesus who loved sinners.  Religion had never been shown as loving, only imposing rules which nobody could keep (Luke 11:42-52).  Instead, Jesus had taken Levi into His team as an apprentice apostle.  As a disciple, Levi’s job was to learn all about Jesus so that he could write it down.  He was not brought on as a future best-selling author, just as a disciple with a lot to learn.  Later, he wrote Matthew’s Gospel.

The huge party attracted strong criticism.  Religious leaders could only see Levi’s past, but Jesus could see his future – and the future that was possible for the other sinners.  But the spiritually sterile religionists could only complain – surely, if Jesus was holy then He would keep away from unholy sinners.  Jesus turned their argument around: sick people need a doctor?  Their illness does not corrupt the physician, but his knowledge can bring healing.  Jesus said that His job was not to entertain those who thought they had no problem, but to command sinners to repentance (John 3:17).

It is the same today.  Many people do not think they need Jesus.  Others, who are ashamed of their lives, are desperate to be made clean; they want to change but do not know how.  When one of them receives Jesus, it is the ideal opportunity to share their joy with work colleagues.  A meal often provides the ideal opportunity to speak about Jesus; and a large party gives relaxed time for an evangelist to be heard.  Self-righteous religious people may not want an invitation.  But for spiritually hungry, sin-sick and world-weary colleagues - it may be the opportunity they have been waiting for.  Jesus is still calling sinners, and wants them to know the relief of repentance, forgiveness and acceptance by God.  Do not forget that the people you work with are not just cogs in some organisational machinery: they are loved by Jesus who wants them to know the joy of repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  Who will tell them?  You can!  Show them www.crosscheck.org.uk and discuss the gospel story with them.  It may be just what they have been waiting for.

Holy God. Thank You that Jesus came to seek out sinners like me. Thank You for speaking to me and for urging me to repent and receive Your forgiveness. Although many of my friends and colleagues do not want to show any weakness, You know those who are longing to find peace with God. Please forgive me when I have ignored their spiritual needs, or presumed that they would not listen to You. Help me to take godly initiatives so that Christ may be heard, and weary souls may find rest in Jesus. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams