Remove two words and the question becomes a truth. The examination turns into an exclamation. The inquiry morphs into a wondrous infallibility. Just by dropping two words.
After this [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him. 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. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
(Luke 5:27-30 ESV)
You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners.
The other gospel writers represent these grumblings by the self-righteous and uber-religious as directed primarily at Jesus, but Luke points out that what Jesus did His disciples did as well. Yet, as I read these words this morning, in my mind’s eye “you”, the collective, pops as “You”, the Christ. The grumbling was directed towards a young, upstart rabbi who was competing for people’s religious affection. The question was directed at the One who came preaching good news of a kingdom which had come. The incredulity targeted at the self-identified Messiah, God’s holy promised Redeemer.
But for me this morning, it’s a glorious statement of fact concerning my Savior. He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners — and borrowing from Paul, “of who I am chief” (1Tim. 1:15 NKJV).
This past Sunday, He was seated with me at a spiritual table of remembrance as I ate and drank together with other sinners who had been called to the celebration. One day He will eat and drink with me around a great banqueting table in the heavens celebrating the marriage of the Lamb of God and the bride He purchased with His own blood (Rev. 19:7-9). And every morning He renews His invitation — setting the table afresh with new mercies and all-sufficient grace — that if I will RSVP and open the door, He promises that “I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
Jesus eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners.
How thankful am I for that? Pretty thankful. How much in awe that I have a seat at the table? A lot.
To what degree do I deserve it, have earned it, or merit it? Not so much.
Sure, I seek to follow. I try to obey. I trust I’m growing and being increasingly conformed to the likeness of Jesus. But when it comes down to my confidence that there will always be a place at the table for me, it’s only through the finished work of the cross. Only because of the steadfast, patient love of the Lord. Only because Jesus calls tax collectors and sinners to Himself, declaring them to be saints, and determining to complete the work He has begun in them (Php. 1:6).
Just a sinner . . .
. . . saved by grace.
At the table . . .
. . . for God’s glory.