And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. (Luke 5:29 NASB)
Levi had been sitting in his tax collecting office, unhappy, longing for a change. Jesus came in, saw his need, and invited Levi to follow Him. Levi jumped at the chance. He looked around his office, said to himself, "I'm done here," and walked out the door. He spent the rest of his life following Jesus.
Levi walked away from the lifestyle he was accustomed to enjoying, and his livelihood, with joy. We know that because his first action as a believer and disciple was to throw a huge party. This was not just a little punch and a few cookies. The Greek here indicates that he had a lavish feast in honor of Jesus. Only the best would do to introduce the King of Kings, and Levi instinctually knew that.
Because tax collectors were considered traitors, they were shunned by the religious leaders. Not surprisingly, they were not invited. Instead, Levi invited all his tax collector friends and "other people", common people. Well, these were not the "common" people of faith. They were likely what many considered "lowlife bad boys".
Now here's where this party was different from their usual. Levi invited them in order to introduce them to Jesus. When he left his old life, rose, and followed Jesus, he was done with the old life, but he wanted to offer that same chance at a fresh start to all his friends. He didn't give them a tract or a book to read (although those certainly have their place), nor did he give them an argument or a sermon. What Matthew gave them was Jesus, and those men who had been so shunned by the scribes and Pharisees found that Levi's Jesus sat around the table with them, laughed with them, and accepted them. He was an entirely different kind of rabbi.
Sometimes I forget about this Jesus. I have an image of the suffering Man of Sorrows and the Risen Lord, but I don't always keep the image of the laughing, friendly, warm and welcoming-to-sinners Jesus at the forefront of my mind. I should though. It was that very kind, friendly, forgiving Jesus who saw this sinner woman and offered me a new life. It was that same wonderful Jesus who gave you a new life, too.
I wonder how great an impact we could have on the world if we saw people stuck in a lifestyle of sin, the outcasts of society, the way Jesus did. What if we treated them the way Jesus did? Perhaps our Jesus and the new life He offers would be as attractive to them as it was to Levi.
Today, pray that we would have eyes to see those around us the way Jesus did and a heart to treat them with the acceptance He offered. Pray that the believers our loved ones encounter will offer that same grace to them.