And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. — Luke 5:29
Hospitality can be an evangelistic outreach. This was true in New Testament times, and it is true in our day too. A family in our congregation tells of the impact that Christian hospitality can make upon troubled individuals in need of God.
After five years of marriage, Warren’s gambling habit had caused a great deal of turmoil. Finally, one Christmas Eve his wife Lucille told him to leave their home — she didn’t care if she ever saw him again. A few weeks later, this desperate young man went to the Apostolic Faith Church in Los Angeles, California, and prayed through to salvation. When his wife made it clear that she had no interest in reconciling, he moved to Portland, Oregon, for employment.
After several months, Lucille agreed to come to Portland to see if their marriage could be restored. Although she was determined not to get saved, the love and hospitality bestowed on her by the church people began to melt her heart. She could feel their love and genuine interest in her. On one occasion, she and Warren were invited to a couple’s home for dinner. The table was beautifully set with fine china, but somehow it collapsed, toppling everything onto the floor. The graciousness exhibited by the hostess in this embarrassing event made a lasting impression on Lucille, providing another Christian example for her to reflect on. It was not long before she made her way to an altar of prayer and surrendered her life to God. Warren and Lucille served the Lord together for the rest of their lives.
In today’s text, we find a Biblical example of hospitality that possibly was extended with a strategic reason in mind. Levi had responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, and had given up wealth, privilege, and position to do so. The change that Jesus had made in his life motivated Levi to invite his former coworkers and friends to a feast at his house so they, too, could get acquainted with Jesus and learn more about Him. He no doubt wanted to win his fellow tax collectors to Christ, just as the church people in Portland extended hospitality to Lucille with the thought of encouraging her to become a Christian.
The scribes and Pharisees were indignant that Jesus would mix with a crowd of publicans and sinners. In the culture of that day, fellowship during a meal signified full acceptance. The publicans were tax collectors for the Roman government and generally hated by the Jews, while “sinners” could have been anyone who did not adhere to the rigorous ceremonial requirements set forth by the religious leaders. However, in response to the scribes and Pharisees’ disapproval, Jesus emphasized that His mission was to call sinners, not righteous individuals, to repentance.
The Greek word for “hospitality” is philoxenia, which means “love of strangers.” How can we draw people to God by the use of our homes and resources? Who might need reinforcement in the battle against loneliness? Are there people among our acquaintances who could be brought together in a warm and friendly environment for the sake of God’s Kingdom?
Christian hospitality is both challenging and rewarding. It unquestionably takes time, effort, and reliance on God. However, a casual gathering of friends or an invitation to dinner may be just what is needed to encourage others to give their lives to God. By being welcoming hosts, we can invite the outside world into our world of faith and trust in Him. Let us purpose to look for opportunities to be hospitable to those who are strangers to Christ, and demonstrate God’s love in every way we can.
Today’s text covers the call of Levi (5:27-33) and Jesus’ responses to the scribes and Pharisees’ questions about fasting (5:33-39) and lawful activities on the Sabbath (6:1-11).
The word publican is a translation of the Greek word telones, which means “tax gatherer.” Levi, also known as Matthew, was a publican or tax collector in Capernaum, which was a sizable fishing port and trade center. Levi would have been one of many such collectors exacting levies on imported goods and local citizens. All caravans passing through Capernaum on the highway from Damascus to Egypt were required to pay a toll. The Jews also paid taxes on their lands, produce, animals, and the productive fishing industry. These oppressive taxes were even more offensive to the Jews because of their loathing for the Roman government. They despised the tax collectors, who not only worked for the Roman government, but were often corrupt in their business practices, collecting more than what was owed and keeping the overcharge for themselves.
As Jesus passed by Levi’s toll booth near the Sea of Galilee, He said just two words, “Follow me.” Levi immediately left the wealth and security of his position to follow Christ. The feast mentioned in verse 29 may have been a farewell party to announce Levi’s intention to leave his employment and follow Jesus. It also provided an opportunity for Levi to introduce his guests to Jesus.
In verses 30-32, the scribes and Pharisees questioned why Jesus attended a feast which included publicans and sinners. The religious leaders looked down on most Jews as “unspiritual,” and would never socialize with anyone who did not adhere to the ceremonial requirements of the Law. Jesus’ response revealed His knowledge that the Pharisees felt they had no need of Him because they considered themselves already free from the disease of sin. Jesus said He came to minister to sinners who were sick of sin and wanted to be free from it.
In verses 33-35, the question regarding fasting may have been asked on an actual fast day since the Pharisees and other devout Jews fasted weekly. As fasting was a type of mourning, Jesus alluded to the joyful occasion of a marriage and replied that it was not fitting to make the “children of the bridechamber,” or “friends of the bridegroom,” fast while the bridegroom was with them. He said the day would come when the bridegroom (symbolizing Jesus) would be taken away, and then they would fast.
In verses 36-39, the obvious absurdities in Jesus’ contrasts illustrated the incompatibility of trying to mix the old ways (Jewish traditions) with the new (Jesus’ teachings).
In Luke 6:1-5, the phrase “second sabbath after the first” may mean “the sabbath after Passover.” Plucking corn in a neighbor’s field was permissible as long as a sickle was not used (see Deuteronomy 23:25), but the controversy was whether doing so was lawful on the Sabbath. Jesus referred to David and his men eating the loaves of “shewbread” from the Tabernacle when they were fleeing from Saul (see 1 Samuel 21:1-6). This bread was consecrated to God and was to be eaten by the priests only, but Jesus implied that there can be exceptions to rigorous religious requirements in times of need. Jesus also stressed that as the “Son of man” (a Messianic title), He had the authority to determine what was lawful or not lawful on the Sabbath.
Verses 6-11 describe another Sabbath when Jesus taught in the Temple. The religious leaders were ready to accuse Him if He chose to heal on that day, but Jesus caught them off guard with His symbolic question, and they knew it would make them look punitive to argue against doing good or saving lives on the Sabbath. They were enraged that He had once again verbally outmaneuvered them, and discussed how they might destroy Him.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The ministry of the Son of Man
B. The course of the ministry of the Son of Man
4. The call of Levi (5:27-39)
a. The invitation (5:27-28)
b. The association (5:29)
c. The inquiry (5:30)
d. The answer (5:31-32)
e. The charge (5:33)
f. The explanation (5:34-39)
5. Controversy over Sabbath-work tradition (6:1-5)
a. The setting (6:1)
b. The question (6:2)
c. The answer (6:3-5)
6. Controversy over Sabbath-healing tradition (6:6-11)
a. The circumstance (6:6)
b. The charge (6:7)
c. The cure (6:8-10)
d. The hatred (6:11)
Demonstrating love and hospitality will cause others to see Jesus reflected in you, and may go a long way toward drawing souls to Christ.