Luke 5: Jesus Loves Sinners (Including Me!)

Luke 5 shares a fascinating story that reveals Christ’s attitude toward sinners. It also reveals the attitude the religious leaders held toward him. The text, in part, reads:

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

First, Jesus called a sinner to follow him. I think we would all agree we’re not perfect, but Matthew was a local “bad guy” since he not only worked to collect taxes, but did so for a foreign government.

Plus, he must have had some shady friends.

When Jesus came to Matthew’s house for dinner, the local religious leaders didn’t question the menu; they questioned motives. They simply couldn’t believe a person who loved God would share a meal with people who didn’t.

Christ’s response is filled with irony. He responded that he had come to call sinners to repentance. The irony is that he was explaining this to religious leaders he would later address as being some of those sinners.

So Christ didn’t sin, but he invested time in the lives of those rejected by the religious leaders of his culture. It would be easy to just say, “Apply accordingly.” However, a point worth noting remains.

First, we would do well to figure out which character in this story most resembles us. Are we Matthew? His friends? The religious leaders? The disciples? (There’s only one Jesus; we can’t be him.)

Each character has a different issue to address. For Matthew, it was to live out Christ’s call to new life.

For Matthew’s guests, it was to repent and follow the Master.

For the religious leaders, it was to see their own hypocrisy and Christ’s unconditional love.

For the disciples, it was a teachable moment, one in which they would experience how Jesus lived in a world filled with darkness while shining light.

Except for Jesus, all of the characters were sinners; and so are we. The good news from Luke is that Jesus loves us all, calls us to a changed life, and has given a new and infinitely better way to live.


Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at