Repentance and the Message of Christ
Read Luke 5:27-32
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
What was the purpose of Christ’s coming? What was the message he came to communicate? Christ came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, which referred to the rule of God over the world that will ultimately be realized in the return of Christ when he sets up his kingdom. However, participation in his kingdom is not based upon ethnic lineage or national heritage as presumed by the Jews. Instead the kingdom of God was realized by those who had who embraced the redemptive work of Christ. But foundational to announcement of the kingdom of God was the proclamation of the requirement to participate in it. This is what was central to the work and message of Christ that we find revealed in Luke 5.
In this passage we find Christ calling the most unlikely individual to be his disciple. Of the 12 individuals called to become his disciples, Matthew (as called Levi) was the most improbable. During the time of Christ, there were two types of tax collectors, there were those who were government officials who collected taxes and then there were tax farmers, third party individuals who were contracted by the Romans to collect taxes on goods and produce. In return they would receive a commission. However, their presence and demands were often arbitrary and resulted in widespread misuse. While all tax collectors were regarded to be on par with thieves and prostitutes, tax farmers were especially looked down upon because of their thievery. In all likelihood Matthew was this type of tax collector. As a result, he was looked down upon as one of the dregs of society, for tax collectors were not just regarded as thieves but traitors as well. It was no wonder that the religious leaders were shocked that Christ not only called him to be one of his followers but had the audacity of having a large reception with all his co-workers on behalf of Jesus. That Christ would associate with such reprobates was mindboggling to them. For them, it not only went against all proper decorum, but against religious standards. For Christ to associate with them was paramount to being one of them.
In response, Christ uses the analogy of a physician. A physician does not spend his time being with the healthy, but with the sick. Healing is his calling and purpose. For a physician to neglect the sick would be malpractice. What arrests our attention is the cure. A physician does not just visit a sick person to provide emotional support, they come to identify the illness and then determine the right treatment. When Christ states that he came to call sinners to repentance he is revealing to us the treatment and cure. The treatment for sin is repentance. What this involves is indicated in verse 28 where it states Matthey left everything to follow Christ. This signifies that Matthew reoriented his whole life, forsaking his previous life of dishonesty and pursuing a relationship with Christ. This brings us to the heart of repentance. Repentance is not merely having sorrow for our sin; it is a response that results in a complete shift in our thinking and actions. It is to stop doing what is wrong and pursue what is right. If you are struggling with sin, don’t just ask for God’s forgiveness, ask Him to reorient your whole life to conform to his word and his character, for this is the heart of repentance.