Scripture, unlike our attempts at active reflection today, shows Jesus going to Levi at Levi’s tax-collecting booth. Jesus actually went to Levi’s place of sin.
Then Jesus asks Levi to follow him. I do not recall a sinner’s prayer or even a Roman’s Road. Perhaps one of Jesus’ bonehead disciples had a huge wooden sign that read, “God hates tax collectors! The kingdom of God is near. Repent or die!”
But I do not recall that in scripture either. Anyway! Jesus calls Levi, and Levi follows very willingly. Oh! It doesn’t end there. Going to one tax collector’s little booth was not enough. Jesus goes to have some dinner with Levi and a bunch of other tax collectors. Jesus sat and hung out with them. I read that he sits with them; eating.
This was not the guys getting together for some food and cards either. Scripture tells us it was a large crowd of tax collectors. Jesus went to a huge tax collectors’ dinner conference to hang out with them.
Oh, and possibly the most accurate reflection of today’s Christian culture in this passage happens outside the “Hyatt Regency by the Sea” were Pharisee picketers with sings and megaphones. The signs complained, “Why DO YOU eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Now, let’s not overlook something here. The real thing worth noting is the Pharisees are the ones who first call the tax collectors “sinners”. They are never referred to as sinners until the Pharisees come on the scene. They were quick to place a branding on these people. Jesus goes into the margins of the marginalized and sits with them; the Christian elite sit outside branding tax collectors with titles.