“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?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:29-32).
One cannot get around the social and cultural location embedded in this: The Jewish tax-collector for Rome, Levi puts on a banquet-meal for Jesus, who is to be the honored guest and symposium speaker for the evening. Jesus clearly states that he had come to call [probably the idea here, given the setting, "invited" to Jesus’ banquet-meal table], not the Jewish temple leadership, but social and religious outcasts. Jesus describes his banquet-meal and table as one of social leveling and transformation, along with the purposeful association of those considered outcasts and disenfranchised.
We tend to generalize and uproot Jesus’ terms the “righteous” and “sinners,” so as to keep our categories of people comfortably and neatly in place. But in the end, Jesus still upsets our social categories, for this is the nature of the gospel of the kingdom. We need, in light of this text, to rethink "church" and "evangelism" and the importance use of meal and table as a venue for creating new social spheres and acceptance.
Chip M Anderson is the author of Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism. A deep, exegetical read into the Gospel of Mark. All royalities go to support his church planting ministry in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The book or its e-formats can be found on Amazon, Barns'n Noble, (and most other online book distributors) or directly through the publisher, Wipf & Stock directly.